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American Porcupine

Erethizon dorsatum

American Porcupine. Photo:Peter Mirejovsky
American Porcupine. Photo:Peter Mirejovsky

The porcupine is the second largest rodent found in Canada. It is a common inhabitant of both deciduous and coniferous forests. It is present in almost all of mainland Canada. These sluggish, docile creatures were once thought to hurl their quills at an unwary intruder, but that myth was quirky discarded as a fallacy. Porcupines are excellent climbers and will head for the nearest tree if startled. Should one ever be cornered, it will characteristically turn its back and elevate its quills while emitting a pitiful whine. Due to the hooked structure of the quills, it is far more damaging to rip the embedded quills from tissue than it is to push the quill out the other side. Despite the porcupine's imposing defenses, many carnivores feed on it, which make it a vital link in the food chain. Porcupines are herbivorous by nature, preferring to feed on the inner bark of trees as well as herbaceous vegetation.

Map of American Porcupine in Canada
Distribution of American Porcupine in Canada

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