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Erethizon dorsatum

Common Name: North American Porcupine
Erethizon dorsatum
Erethizon dorsatum

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Erethizonitdae
Genus: Erethizon
Species: Erethizon dorsatum

Conservation Status

Identifying Features

Porcupines are usually a dark brown color, with lightly colored quills and guard hairs across their backs and outward facing parts of their limbs. As the second largest rodent in North America, they can be up to 3 feet long and up to 30 pounds!

Habitat & Range

North American porcupines live in woodland forests throughout Canada, the US, and Mexico.


North American porcupines are excellent climbers, and frequently spend time in the tops of trees. They are able to do so due to their long claws, pebbly-textured palms, excellent grip and balance, and strong tail.

Porcupines are quite near-sighted and slow-moving. They are nocturnal, meaning they are primarily nocturnal, and do not hibernate. Porcupines live alone, a mostly solitary life.

Life Cycle

Porcupines mate during the fall after extensive courtship rituals. In the spring, female porcupines give birth to a single young that stays with them for up to six months. Baby porcupines, or porcupettes, do not reach adulthood until 2 years old.

North American porcupine in captivity. Image by Katie Bagnall-Newman.
North American porcupine in captivity. Image by Katie Bagnall-Newman.

Featured image by Shannon Mollerus.


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