Ah, the porcupine, one of Canada’s best known rodents and second in size to fellow rodent, the beaver.
What do they look like?
Your average male porcupine usually weighs in some between 15-18 pounds although some of your more well –fed ones have been known to exceed 25 pounds. The females generally weigh about 2 pounds less than the males. They usually vary somewhere between 25-31 inches in length. All are covered in dense hair and quills except on their feet, nose and belly. They have a thick layer of body fat that serves to keep them warm during winter.
It’s the quills that distinguish the porcupine from their fellow rodents. They vary in length and have microscopic barbs on the end. They are also the porcupine’s most effective defense mechanism. When threatened by predators such as the lynx, wolf, coyote or wolverine, the porcupine rolls itself into a ball and exposes it’s quills in all directions. It then starts waving its tail back and forth in an effort to imbed some of the quills into its attacker. The favorite method for a predator to make a meal of the porcupine is to somehow flip them over on their back and expose their underbelly (no quills there!) and munch away.
Where can I find one?
Porcupines can be found in every province in Canada with the exception of Newfoundland. They have an affinity for wooded areas and are mostly found in pine forests or areas with poplar or aspen trees.
What do they eat?
Porcupines are vegetarians. During the summer their diet consists mostly of ground vegetation in the form of plants and shrubs. Some of its favorite snacks are grasses, dandelions and other assorted twigs. The porcupine is also known to be fond of aquatic plants such as water lilies and other weeds that grow around ponds. When winter time rolls around, the porcupine takes to the trees and will munch on the bark and twigs of trees of all types. They are especially fond of the bark of the hemlock plant but also feed on maple, birch, oak, cherry, willow and pine trees.
Porcupines also have a craving for salt. They have been known to gnaw on anything that has the slightest hint of containing salt. Besides natural sources, they have been known to eat road salt, tools that might have remnants of human perspiration and the antlers and bones of dead animals.
What goes in must come out.
Your average porcupine is a veritable shitting machine. Since most of the stuff previously mentioned is hard to digest, the porcupine has somewhere between 75-200 movements a day. That my friends, is either impressive or disgusting, depending on ones point of view.
How do they mate?
After some cocktails and intimate conversation, the female porcu…Oops, sorry ‘bout that.
The mating ritual of porcupines is kinda strange. The prime-breeding season for porcupines is between September through November. During this time, males looking for a mate will expand their territory up to five times its normal size. Should two males encounter a female, a fight will ensue that involves biting and the trading of quills. The largest male usually comes out the victor.
Here’s where it gets strange. The winner of the tussle will then completely soak the female in his urine. If she’s not willing, she just shakes it off and is outta there. If however, she is impressed, she’ll stick around and they will commence to doing it porcupine style. This consists of the female curling her tail over her back, covering her quills and exposing herself to the male. He then mounts her from behind and proceeds to do what comes naturally. (I imagine, with all those quills, that one false move could prove to be quite painful.)