North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)
Porcupines are best known for their quills: strong hairs that cover almost their entire body. People used to believe that porcupines could use these quills as defensive projectiles; with each porcupine covered in nearly 30,000 quills, that would be a lot of firepower! In reality, porcupines are much less explosive. When they feel threatened, their tough quills stand up on end and easily detach upon contact. In particularly stressful situations, they sometimes run backwards, charging into threatening predators and other animals that get too close.
The natural habitat of porcupines runs from the northeastern United States, up north across much of Canada, and stretches down through the western United States into northern Mexico. They are herbivores and eat pine needles, tree bark, nuts, berries, and other plants. Even though porcupines are common in the area, they aren’t often spotted because they are mostly nocturnal. When you’re driving through the park at night, keep these creatures safe! Be sure to go slow and watch out for them on the road.
Written by Shawna Wolf
PC: Grand Teton on Flickr https://flic.kr/p/K44P49