porcupine in a tree

NPS photo/Cedar Breaks National Monument

North American Porcupine
Erethizon dorsatum

A unique rodent that you might not expect to find in Zion is the North American porcupine. Porcupines are more common in higher elevation forests, but they can also be found in lower elevation riparian zones and even deserts—all habitats found within Zion National Park. The porcupine is the second largest rodent in North America (behind the beaver), usually weighing between 10-20 pounds, although some may be larger. This slow-moving, short-legged creature is covered with long black hair and barbed quills. Despite common belief, porcupines do not actually "launch" their quills, rather their quills are loosely attached and can be released as a defense mechanism if attacked or harassed by a predator.

Porcupines are herbivores, and eat only plants. In the winter they eat mostly conifer needles and tree bark;trees with patches of bark removed, especially high up in a tree, are a good indicator of a local porcupine. These nocturnal animals are rarely sighted, spending much of the daytime up in trees. In Zion they find shelter in rocky crevices and hollow or downed trees.

Return to Rodents or to the main Mammals page

Last updated: October 2, 2015

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Zion National Park
1 Zion Park Blvd.

Springdale, UT 84767


If you have questions, please email zion_park_information@nps.gov. Listen to recorded information by calling anytime 24 hours a day. Rangers answer phone calls from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. MT, but a ranger may not answer if they are already speaking with someone else.

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