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Quiller Instincts


North American Porcupine

Erethizon dorsatum

Equipped with a built in defense system is the misunderstood porcupine. Porcupines are peaceful rodents with very poor eyesight and aren’t out looking for trouble. Despite popular belief, they don’t have quill shooting (or throwing) superpowers. However, if you (or your pet) choose to get all up in their business, after a warning, you will get “quilled”. These hollow quills with barbed tails, about 30,000 of them, are loosely attached to the porcupine’s skin and can easily attach to yours- once in close contact. According to the Journal of Chemical Ecology, the quills are coated with a natural antibacterial substance. I understood this to be for protection against self quilling (e.g. from falling out of a tree) and not to protect victims from infection. North American porcupines are the second largest rodents on this soil, beavers are the largest.


These armored habitat guards are great climbers. I was out birding, looked up and there was a porcupine in my lens! Like with all wild animals I stumble upon, I first ensure my safety, speak my peace then continue with my observation and photo documentation, if appropriate. It was very slow moving and didn’t seem bothered by my presence. Baby porcupines are called ‘porcupettes’.

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