Mammals

A Porcupette

A baby porcupine is called a porcupette and we met one the other day. It was so fluffy that it seemed like it must have been very young, but they are usually born in the spring. A porcupette has soft quills made of hardened hair. This protects the mother as she gives birth. After a few days, as the soft quills are exposed to air, the porcupette’s quills hardens and creates the sharp quills.

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It crossed our path as we drive down our driveway and climbed into a tree. Porcupines are good climbers and spend much of their time in trees. They look like a little bear as they climb up a trunk.

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It was quite small. They weigh 450g when they are born, but are almost 1 kg after just two weeks. For the first four months of its life, the mother nurses the porcupette. However at two weeks old they start to learn to climb trees and forage. They stay close to their mother until the fall, when the mating season begins.

Porcupines are not fully-grown until the end of their second summer, when they weigh about 4.5 kg. Looking at the size of this one I am guessing it was born this spring and has just become independent from its mother.

The mothering instinct is a little different with porcupines. They clearly have a close bond with their young and have been known to care for them even after death. However, the mother will not defend its young.

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Under the long guard hairs are the hidden quills. Normally the quills are concealed until the porcupine is aroused, so I was surprised that we could hardly see any. He was clearly afraid when he saw us and climbed into the tree. It is hard to imagine that this fluffy little guy isn’t the cuddly bear that it appears. One day it could have quills up to 20 inches long!

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