NEW WORLD PORCUPINES – Erethizontidae

NEW WORLD PORCUPINES

NEW WORLD PORCUPINES FACTS

New World porcupines are some of the largest North American rodents. They are stocky animals with many sharp quills, modified guard hairs, and spines that in most species are hidden beneath long fur but are visible in others. Quills lie facing downward and spines cover most of their upper bodies and tail, except for a few species that have no spines. The animals have a prehensile, able to grasp by wrapping around, tail that can reach about one-fourth to over one-half its length. Its head consists of a blunt muzzle, small rounded eyes that are nearly hidden by hair, and small rounded ears. Its body has humped shoulders, short bowed legs, and long curved claws. Adults are 15.5 to 51.0 inches (40 to 130 centimeters) long and weigh between 6.5 and 22.0 pounds (3 to 10 kilograms).

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

New World porcupines are found in North, Central, and South America, from Canada and Alaska to Argentina.

NEW WORLD PORCUPINES HABITAT

These porcupines live primarily in trees throughout rainforests and deciduous and coniferous woods, except for one species that lives in deserts and a few others that are found in plantations and other cultivated areas.

NEW WORLD PORCUPINES DIET

New World porcupines eat fruits, seeds, leaves, and bark.

BEHAVIOR AND REPRODUCTION

New World porcupines are assumed to be nocturnal, active at night, and arboreal, living in trees, spending their days sleeping in trees or in private ground places. They spend most of their time alone, but during winter months, several animals often share a winter den. Their winter territory averages 12 acres (5 hectares), while the larger summer territory reaches a maximum of 35 acres (14 hectares). Although not territorial, they defend feeding grounds during winters. They can spear their quills into attackers with spines that are detached. When faced with a predator, an animal that hunts and eats other animals, they erect their quills so they stick out in many directions and chatter their teeth. New World porcupines either remain stationary in a defensive position, or may charge the predator by quickly whipping out with their quill-laden tail.

Most of the time New World porcupines do not communicate with each other. Females do touch their young with their nose, giving them gentle grunts and whines. During the mating season, porcupines become noisy with various grunts, moans, screams, and barks. It is believed that females are either pregnant or lactating, producing milk, for most of their lives. The gestation period, the time period the offspring are in the womb, lasts about 200 days. When gestation is over the female mates again. Females nurse, feed on mother’s milk, their newborns for eight to twelve weeks. A litter, young animals born together from the same mother, is usually only one young, which is born with fur and soft quills that harden quickly. The young reach adult size in about one year, and become sexually mature (able to mate) in one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half years. Their average lifespan is fifteen years.

NEW WORLD PORCUPINES AND PEOPLE

Some New World porcupines are hunted by people. The quills of some species are used in artwork.

CONSERVATION STATUS

New World porcupines are not threatened.