Porcupine tend to be one of the misunderstood animals that live around Alberta, but are truly one of our staff favourites. Numerous urban myths surround them, leaving people in fear of these quiet, gentle creatures.
Porcupine are Canada’s second largest rodent, with the beaver being the largest. We most often think of rodents, like mice, breeding often and having large litters but interestingly porcupine multiply very differently. Females breed in a rather vocal, interesting breeding dance and are then pregnant for 7 months and deliver only one “porcupette”. Twins are considered very rare. These adorable little babies are fully developed with teeth and quills at birth. They are not carefully nurtured by the female and are often weaned by the age of 10 days. They spend the summer following the female and learning from her behaviour.
They are covered in 30,000 hollow, modified hairs called quills that are their only protection from predators. They can’t shoot these quills but do have a flat, strong tail covered in the largest of the quills that can strike an attacker with lightning speed, giving the illusion that they shot the quills. They are not filled with air so it does not help to cut a quill before pulling it from your dog’s face; it really makes the quill harder to grip and pull out.
Porcupines love to eat the inner bark of trees, dandelions, and other vegetation. If they are “loving” your plants or trees you can use a spray that can be purchased at any garden store, Bobbex, to protect your yard. This spray needs only to be reapplied every three months so is very long lasting and effective for porcupine and others like hare, deer, and voles.
Porcupine are hunted by such predators as Coyote, Cougar, Bear, Wolf, Fishers, and Great Horned Owls.