What are Porcupines?

   Often called quill pigs, porcupines are rodents, animals that gnaw. Unlike other rodents, porcupines have coarse hair mixed with long, stiff quills. The sharp tips of the quills are pointed backward like the end of a fishhook. These slow-moving animals have short legs, broad tails, and thick-set bodies. Although found in many kinds of forests, they prefer evergreen forests.
   The barbed quills, which are controlled by muscles in the skin, are loosely at­tached to the porcupine and easily catch on anything which touches them. Porcupines cannot throw their quills as is commonly believed. The porcupine often slaps at its enemy with its powerful tail, causing many of the long quills to become imbedded in the enemy's skin. Once imbedded, they are very difficult and painful to remove because of their barbs. Some enemies of the porcupine, such as the fox, lynx, coyote, and mountain lion, attempt to turn the porcupine over on its back; however, this is difficult to do because the porcupine is able to roll itself up into a compact spiny ball.
   Porcupines are gnawing mammals (ro­dents), feeding mainly on the leaves, buds, and bark of trees and the roots and stems of tender plants. They are especially fond of salt. They are excellent climbers and frequently climb trees searching for food.
   Porcupines have one to three bables each year in early summer. They are usually born under a rock ledge, in a crevice or cave. The babies are large and well-developed at birth, having fur, spines, and teeth. They can live alone in just one week.
   There are several species of porcupines. The Canadian porcupine and the yellow-haired or European porcupine are two. The Canadian porcupine, found throughout North America, grows to be about three feet long, weighing up to forty pounds. The European species is smaller.