North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)

A big porcupine walks over a fallen tree trunk

North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)

The North American porcupine is one of the most easily recognizable animals throughout the continent. Their range extends throughout most of North America from the arctic reaches of northern Canada and Alaska down to Mexico. These massive rodents occupy a wide variety of habitat types including open tundra, deciduous forests, and desert shrublands. Their lifestyle also varies geographically with porcupines in the Pacific Northwest spending most of their time on the ground while those in New York typically hang out in the trees.

The second largest rodent in North America, porcupines are easily identified by their slow, waddling gait and their spiny coat. These barbed quills run from head to toe along their back and each individual has approximately 30,000 of them. This is an excellent defense against predators, as some predators have been known to die due to being stuck from a porcupine.

These rodents are relatively common in much of Wyoming, including Grand Teton National Park, but as they are nocturnal critters, not many people have seen one in the wild. They are also considered a “predator” in Wyoming and are treated as pests due to the stress they can cause in environments. Learn more about these rowdy rodents.

Written by Timothy Uttenhove
PC: Grand Teton on Flickr