How a porcupine protects itself?

Picture of a porcupine.

Pins, needles, spines or quills - whatever you  call them, the porcupine has them!

“Pig with spines” is what the animal’s name means, and what spines!

About 30,000 of them!

Porky’s antics in defending himself may seem amusing for humans; but for this pincushion like member of the rodent family, using quills is serious business.

Indeed so, for the porcupine quill is virtually a bomb with an automatic time fuse that explodes seconds after entering the victim.

Not that Mr. Porcupine is aggressive or out looking for trouble; all he wants is seclusion and the freedom to ramble where he will.

If some tidbit-minded beast disturbs the quietude of this rambling pincushion, then action must be taken.

Porky then arches his back; automatically the sharp quills that cover his body from head to tail stand out from his body like pins in a pincushion, but with the pointed ends out.

Now to face the enemy, or more precisely, to face away from the enemy; for the ideal porcupine defense is to turn its tail to the foe.

With one slap the well armed tail can drive as many as 150 to 200 quills deep into the anatomy of any trespasser.

A would-be attacker circles around this bundle of needles, looking for some place to catch hold of its prey; but porky shuffles around too, keeping his tail pointed to the intruder.

If an attacker is foolish enough to lunge, this animated pincushion delivers a powerful upward blow

With his tail, driving quills into the attacker’s mouth and throat, at the same time guiding the attacker’s face into the thicket of quills on his back.

Too bad for the assailant!

Pain for some, death for others 

A porcupine with it's quills.

Too bad because, once inserted into another animal’s skin, the quills can seldom be extracted except by a person.

How so?

Because in a sense the quills explode a few seconds after entering the victim.

The explosion is minute, but it raises the microscopic barbs on the tip of the quill; and now the quill cannot be extracted without tearing out flesh with it.

The barbed quills on some porcupines are as much as five inches long. It takes a man With pliers to pull one out.

Many a dog never seems to learn its lesson, and comes home to its master after the painful encounter looking like a pincushion itself.

For the dog there is human help, but too bad for those wild animals who have no human master to extract the quills!

Because of muscular action the quills work in deeper and deeper.

Sometimes they penetrate a vital organ, and many a porcupine thereby avenges its own death.

Big cats and other beasts sometimes hunt porcupines rather than go hungry, though it is often a sorry choice for them.

In one case a tiger with its liver and lungs perforated in many places was found dead only a few yards from its victim. E. C. Morris of Mysore described how he “once came on the remains of a panther that had met its death through attacking a porcupine; the decomposed head was run through and through with no less than seventeen quills, two of which had penetrated the eyes into the brain.”

Despite their pincushion-like protection, porcupines sometimes end up on the menu of some hungry beast that succeeds in turning the porcupine on its back to get at its vulnerable underbelly.

Wolves, foxes and bears sometimes have porcupine chops.

The black bear often gets its dinner without injury.

He starts by flipping earth at the porcupine until the irritated animal stands still and puts up its quills.

Deftly the bear slips a paw under it and, with a quick flip, hurls it against the nearest tree.

The result is porcupine burger, a tasty treat for hungry bears.

When defending themselves porcupines do not really shoot their quills or roll up into a ball.

Quills are constantly growing.

Older quills are quite loose, and it sometimes happens that a porcupine will flip up its tail and loose quills will fly off.

The porcupine arches its back but does not roll into a ball.

The hedgehog, another animal that resembles the porcupine, really does roll itself into a ball.

When surprised, the hedgehog draws its head and feet together at the inside, the result being a sphere of bristling spines that defies attack.

Rambling, unhurried life 

Picture of a sleeping porcupine.

Mr. Porcupine is seldom in a hurry; he rambles about leisurely.

As he unhurriedly rambles about he looks for suitable vegetative tidbits, his diet being entirely vegetarian.

Most of his rambling, about 95 percent of it, is done at night.

Fond as porcupines are of greenery, the finest treat the Canadian porcupine can receive is salt, which means as much to it as sweets do to children.

Anything that human hands have repeatedly touched is likely to be impregnated with slight amounts of salt from perspiration.

With his tremendous gnawing teeth, porky will gnaw almost any object with human perspiration, such as strips of leather, saddles, boat oars, ax handles and other tool handles left in the open.

One zoologist has a photograph of a large, thick glass bottle gnawed right through by a porcupine.

Sometimes these animals prowl around cabins and chisel through doors and floor to reach an article with the desired flavor.

Owners of seldom-used cabins sometimes appease porky with conveniently located blocks of salt.

In the winter porcupines do not hibernate but ramble about the woods.

During a severe cold spell, however, porky may spend a day or two at home, perhaps in a hollow log or burrow in the rocks.

Equipped with remarkable wood chisels in his stout incisor teeth, he chips off the outer bark of trees and feeds on the inner bark.

With the melting of winter snows, porky abandons bark for the more appetizing flowers and new green leaves of such trees as the willow, maple and cottonwood.

Many porcupines, especially those of North and South America, are great climbers.

They ramble all over a tree, feeding and relaxing.

The yellow-haired porcupine uses a “rest tree” instead of a den in which to pass daylight hours.

Among trees with high, broad lateral limbs, porky sprawls out and enjoys a delightful snooze, often with all four of his feet dangling over side.

The Canadian porcupine spends most of its time in trees, and a Brazilian porcupine spends all its time in trees, sleeping during the day and waking up at sunset to feed on the foliage and bark.

Picture of a Canadian porcupine on a tree.

The South American porcupine is more streamlined than its North American cousin, having a long tail with a naked tip; and so it is quite capable of hanging by its tail.

No tree-dwelling for the crested porcupines, found throughout much of Asia, Africa and Europe; they are just rambling pincushions and the largest ones at that.

They are called crested because a mass of needle-pointed spines extends from the nape of their neck and down their back.

They ramble about mostly at night, and, though not skilled in climbing, they are experts at digging and hiking.

These rambling pincushions may travel as far as ten miles in search of food, and they put on plenty of weight.

Some may weigh fifty or sixty pounds and are over thirty inches long, including an eight-inch tail, covered with long spines that porky rattles in rattlesnake fashion at the suspicious approach of anything from a locust to a lion.

Each porcupine enjoys its possession and wanders about at night, at times grunting and rattling its quills as if in warning to any would-be disturber: “Beware! I am a dangerous character!

Before this sword rattler suddenly charges backward in rodential rage with his rapier-like quills bristling-it is high time to make one’s exit.