Adult porcupines are solitary mammals for most of the year, except during the breeding season, between September and November. Female porcupines begin reproductive activities at about 1.5 years of age. It is common to find several males around a female during her brief (eight- to twelve-hour) time of receptivity. Mating is brief and occurs on the ground, with the female raising her tail over her back. After the male has inseminated her, each porcupine goes its separate way.
Usually only one porcupette, as the young are sometimes called, is born after the lengthy gestation period. Weighing between four hundred and five hundred grams at birth, newborn porcupines are quite precocial. Their eyes are open and their quills are present, as are their incisors and premolar teeth. Although capable of consuming vegetation within a week of birth, the young are nursed by their mother through the summer months.
Porcupines consume the inner bark of trees and shrubs, especially in the fall and winter when the plants on the ground are becoming dormant or
Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Mammalia Order: Rodentia Family: Erethizontidae Genus and species: Erethizon dorstaum Geographical location: North American porcupines are found throughout Canada, extending into the northeastern and western United States; South American porcupines live in the tropical rain forests of South and Central America; various other porcupine species live in Africa and Asia Habitat: Ranges from tropical rain forests to deserts; some inhabit coniferous and deciduous forests, while others live in grasslands Gestational period: Averages 211 days Life span: Five to six years in the wild, ten to twelve years in captivity Special anatomy: Quills dying. It is easy to observe porcupine feeding sites in the forests by observing the limbs and trunks of trees. If the outer bark has been stripped away, the whitish colored areas beneath are quite apparent. During the spring and early summer, porcupines spend more time on the ground feeding on tender shoots and buds of emerging plants.
While their vision is not acute, their olfactory (smell) and auditory (hearing) senses are well developed. Some researchers have reported observing porcupines standing up on their hind legs and sniffing their surroundings. If a porcupine detects a potential predator, it will form a defensive posture of lowered head and back, at the same time raising the tail for swinging. The heavy muscular tail can drive quills deep into a predator's face and head.
—Sylvester Allred See also: Beavers; Defense mechanisms; Fur and hair; Mice and rats; Rodents; Squirrels.
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