Our North American Porcupine in the first two photos. The crested porcupine found in Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia has a longer and narrower body, and much harder quills.

Just in time for Easter! Okay, it’s not a rabbit; not even the same kind of mammal. Rabbits are lagomorphs, porcupines are rodents. But as rodents go you have to admit (once you get past the beady eyes and quills, of course) that porcupines are cute, too. At least I think so. Whatever your feelings are about looks of our spiny natives they are interesting creatures to say the least. One of the 12 species of porcupines that inhabit the “new world” the North American Porcupine, Erethizon dorstum, is the only one to represent the species in Canada and the US. They are primarily nocturnal animals but I discovered this one peacefully grazing alongside a forested road inside of Fort Lewis, WA. I thought the sighting was a bit unusual but according to the Peterson Field Guide, Mammals of North America, they are “sometimes seen ambling along roadsides, especially after spring thaw.” Well that matches up exactly with my observation. Nearly every source mentions this animal’s overwhelming fondness for salt, a preference that many times leads to it munching down on the handles of hammers, axes, and such. Probably attracted by the salt from human sweat. Porcupines are well known bark eaters and will go after just about anything you’d expect a large rodent to eat. They are the second largest rodent in our country just behind the beaver and that gets them a pretty good rating on the size scale. The ones I’ve seen in the Northeast are much more silvery in color than our Northwestern animals and are a bit larger.

Reptiles and Amphibians of Afghanistan

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