North American Porcupines

Order: Rodentia; Family: Erethizontidae; Species: Erethizon dorsatum

Range: They have the northern-most range of all porcupines and can be found in most of Canada and the western United States south to Mexico. In the eastern United States, they can be found in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, and New England. 

Habitat: Porcupines prefer forests with both hardwood and softwood trees, though they may be found in desert chaparral in northern Mexico. 

Diet: Porcupines are herbivorous. They will eat bark, leaves, twigs, grasses, roots, buds, flowers, and a variety of other vegetation. They are mostly nocturnal, but will sometimes forage for food in the day. They are known to chew on antlers and bones found on the ground for the high mineral content. 

Lifespan: Up to 10-15 years in the wild; 10-20 years in captivity.

Turtle Bay Porcupine.jpg


Born at the Houston Zoo on March 29, 2003, she is a human imprint. She came to Turtle Bay on January 4, 2008. Spike has become a guest favorite as she appears in a variety of Animal Programs. She is one of the stars in our Walk on the Wild Side show, school programs, and guests get to take a walk with her in the Animal Parade.

Interested in the Adopt-An-Anamal program? Click link below. 

Fun Facts

  • Second largest rodent in North America next to the beaver.

  • North American porcupines can have up to 30,000 quills covering their body.

  • Porcupines do not throw their quills. Instead they lift their quills to stand on end and if contact is made, they will release from the skin to remain embedded in the attacker. 

  •  Porcupine quills have special "barbed" ends that act like fish hooks and make it difficult to pull the quills out. 

  • Porcupines are solitary animals, although they may den with other porcupines in the winter.  

  • Porcupines den in caves, decaying logs and hollow trees. They don't hibernate, but they may stay in their den during bad weather. 

  • Porcupines are good swimmers and their hollow quills help keep them afloat. They are excellent tree-climbers and spend most of their time in trees. 

  • The name porcupine comes from the Latin words 'porcus' and 'spina' meaning 'thorny pig'.