North American Porcupine


Scientific Name

North American Porcupine:  

Distribution and Habitat

Geographic Range

The North American porcupine is the only species that lives in the U.S. and Canada. They are found throughout most of Alaska and Canada, in northern Great Lakes region and throughout the west and northeast regions of the United States.

Natural Habitat

They are commonly found in coniferous and mixed forested areas and have adapted to harsh environments such as shrub lands, tundra and deserts. They like to make their dens in hollow trees or sometimes in rocky areas.

Physical Characteristics

  • A porcupine’s head and body can measure 25 to 36 in and their tail, 8 to 10 in. North American porcupines can weigh from 8 to 30 lbs. Their upper parts are covered with thousands of sharp, barbed spines or quills (actually modified hairs), which are used for defense. Porcupines have a stout, slow, lumbering form and a spiny coat. They usually appear dark brown to black, although some of the hairs and spines of these animals are yellow.

Quick Facts

  1. Most young porcupines are ready to live on their own at about two months of age.

  2. Their quills are two to three inches long and have mild antibiotic properties that are great for preventing infection when they fall and impale themselves with their own quills.

  3. Female porcupines have between one and four young, depending on the species.


Education Department

Conservation Status

Least Concern: The North American Porcupine is common or abundant and is likely to survive in the wild.

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These porcupines are herbivores. They like twigs, buds, plants, fruits and the inner bark of trees. They have been known to visit campgrounds and chew on canoe paddles.