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Porcupine

Ezethizon dorsatum

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The porcupine is a large rodent indigenous to the forest and woodlands of Oregon. Aside from the American Beaver, it is the largest rodent on the North American continent. The animal is easily identified by rounded shape and dense quills that cover most of the body but are particularly prominent on its back and sides. Porcupines are usually dark in color, but the end of the quills are lighter and may give the animal a “frosted” appearance. Although slow-moving, the porcupine is an excellent climber and swimmer.

The Porcupine’s quills are its main source of defense. The quills are modified hairs sheathed in layers of keratin (the same material that makes up human fingernails) and equipped with a barbed end. When threatened, the Porcupine will roll into a ball and fluff up its quills. There is a common misconception that Porcupines can eject quills when threatened. Although they do not have this ability, the animal can dislodge and scatter loose quills simply by shaking its body. Under this circumstance, a careless predator might end up with a face full of quills if it strays too close.

Range and Habitat

In North America, the Porcupine is common throughout woodlands, coniferous and deciduous forests from Canada to Mexico. The are often found in trees or rooting on the forest floor for skunk cabbage, plant stems and bulbs. They are common all along the Oregon Coast and into the Coast Range Mountains.

Conservation Status

The Porcupine is a common animal throughout North America, but may be hard to spot due to its solitary, nocturnal nature. It is often considered a nuisance animal due to its propensity for raiding back yards or camp sites in search of food. These forays into human areas may also result in unpleasant encounters with domesticated animals such as dogs.