The Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)

The porcupine is almost like a beaver but can be recognized by the 30 000 quills that cover the whole body except for the stomach, nose and his feet. Porcupines are brown in colour and have an average height between 60 and 100cm and an average weight of 5.5 kg for males and 4.5 kg for females. When a porcupine is born, the quills are soft but within an hour they harden. The longest quills are on his back and the shortest are on his face.


Distribution and habitat

Porcupines occupy most of Canada and almost all of British Columbia in forest and mountain habitats. They are uncommon on the coast and not found on Vancouver Island or the Queen Charlotte Islands.

The porcupine lives in trees, caves, fallen logs, and rock piles, in forests and sometimes riparian habitat.  Generally, they don’t range far from their den.

Porcupines tend to run from danger and make a loud noise to warn predators to leave. If a predator comes too close, porcupines use their quills as a defense mechanism. They get lodged in the skin, body and are hard and painful to remove.


The porcupine is herbivorous and eats a variety of herbs and shrubs during the spring and summer. During the growing season their diet consists of grasses, forbs, aquatic succulent and cultivated crops.

During the winter, when the land is covered in snow, the porcupine eats almost only hard and softwood.

Social Behavior

The porcupine is essentially a solitary animal. They mostly stay in their dens during the day and feed at night. They don’t hibernate during the winter, though they sleep a lot more and stay close to their dens.


Females become sexually mature about 18 months of age. Males become sexually active during late August or September.

Young porcupines (usually one) are born in the spring and are well developed, have eyes open, quills that harden quickly and weigh 340-640 grams. They can forage on their own within one week.

The main predators of the porcupine are fishers, bears, bobcats, lynx, wolves and coyotes.

Economic consideration

The porcupine is considered as a nuisance due to gnawing on human property (buildings, furniture, implements, vehicle and other objects). They are listed in the provincial ‘yellow list’ and are not considered in jeopardy.