Porcupine Time!

These examples of beautiful North American Porcupines were photographed inside Fort Lewis, WA. You can see how well they blend into the vegetation they are feasting on in the first picture. Then one guy shows off his prehensile tree climbing foot. The last picture is a porcupine in its rear defensive posture. They will snap that quill covered tail if you get too close.

The North American Porcupine, Erethizon dorsatum, is our only representative of the 12 different species found in the “New World”. This very interesting animal is visitor from South America which has managed to extend its range almost throughout the United States and Canada and has achieved the title of our second largest rodent according to some sources. (I suspect the introduced nutria may be competing for that title, though.) Despite its origin, however, the one area of our country it has avoided is the Southeast. Our North American Porcupines seem to prefer cooler and drier environments. Mmm…maybe that’s why it migrated. Anyway, the periodic instances of warm weather we have in the Northwest are great times for observing these very interesting mammals. They are strict vegetarians and will gobble up just about anything from acorns to tree bark depending on what is available. They are active year round and do not hibernate but are seldom seen during winter months as they often feed on evergreen needles and tree bark during that time of year and are consequently up over our heads, an appetite that has proven to be pretty harmful to a number of trees in the eastern part of America. They have other preferences. Porcupines are known to be especially fond of salt and eagerly crunch down on bones and shed antlers in order to gain needed mineral content. In the spring and during bouts of warm winter weather they fond of the vegetation found along roadways. So if you happen to be driving along a road bordered by a bushy landscape outside of a wooded area be on the lookout. They blend in pretty well, however, so you could very well miss one.

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