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Porcupine in a yard

Porcupine Information

Porcupines are medium-sized mammals found in parts of the northern and western United States and parts of Canada. Porcupines may have as many as 30,000 quills, sharp hairs with barbed ends, all across their backs. Their quills are used as a defense mechanism to protect themselves from any potential predators. Even though porcupines prefer to be left alone, they can cause a big problem on your property. Porcupines are herbivores and can quickly destroy the plans and vegetation in your gardens or your yards. If you have pets, porcupines’ quills can pose a direct danger to them and their wellbeing.

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What does a Porcupine look like?

Porcupines are easily recognized by the yellow or white quills that stand out against their brown or black fur. These slow-moving animals have stout, compact bodies with small heads, black eyes, and short ears. About the size of a large house cat, they average around 15 pounds and grow to about 2 to 3 feet in length with a 6 to 11 inch long tail. This specially adapted tail is extremely muscular, which helps porcupines balance in trees. Likewise, the soles of their feet are rough to make climbing easier.

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What does a Porcupine eat?

The diet of porcupines varies seasonally and by region. In the summer, they feast on buds, flowers, leaves and small twigs. Instead of hibernating during winter when these food sources are not available, porcupines simply adapt, eating bark and pine needles. Feeding rates also change according to the weather, with the pests eating more during the fall to store energy for colder months.

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Porcupine habitats

Porcupines primarily live in coniferous forests and wooded areas along streams. Dispersed through the western and northern portions of the U.S., they have a home range of approximately 25 to 35 acres. Porcupines typically live in hollow logs or groundcover, though they may also use trees if no other shelter is available. Since they do not sleep in the same trees they feed on, mixed forests are their preferred habitats.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Though they’re both known for their unique spines or quills, a porcupine and a hedgehog are actually quite different. Both are mammals, but porcupines are rodents and hedgehogs are closely related to shrews.


Hedgehogs are not native to North America, mostly finding homes in the United States as exotic pets.


Porcupines can be found throughout the northern and western portions of the country, usually in forested areas. They make their dens in hollowed out trees or rocky outcroppings and are adept climbers.

While generally passive if left alone, these pests can perceive people as a threat and use their quills in self-defense. They tense their muscles so the quills stand at attention, then begin swatting their tails back and forth.

Porcupine quills can become embedded in the skin and are painful and difficult to remove.

The pests are also able to spread porcupine diseases like rabies. They may host ticks as well, which can pass on Colorado tick fever and a variety of other illnesses.

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