The word porcupine comes from the Latin words "porcus spina," meaning "pig spines". The porcupine is a slow-moving, peaceful rodent. They are also vegetarians and mostly nocturnal. Their scientific name, Erethizon, means to "irritate with back."
The Porcupine is the second largest of all rodents. It has a small head, large, chunky body with a high arching back and short legs. Its head and body are 25 to 40 inches long, with long, thick, muscular tail growing as long as 8 inches. It weighs from 10 to 40 pounds. Long, yellowish hairs cover the front half of its body while up to 30,000 quills are placed among the dark, coarse hairs of the back and tail. These quills are the most distinguishing characteristic of the Porcupine. Actually modified hairs, the black-tipped, yellowish quills are stiff, barbed spines about 3 inches long that can be easily barbs once embedded in another animals' flesh. The Porcupine's feet have 4 toes on the forefeet and 5 on the hind feet all with long, curved claws and small pads on the bottom. The porcupine's undersides are soft and vulnerable. Porcupine babies are called kittens.
The porcupine lives in all the North American desert regions, and the entire west, north to Canada. It lives in wooded areas ,in light marshlands and in deserts.
Porcupines are vegetarians. In the Spring they feed on leaves, twigs and green plants. In Winter, they chew through the outer bark of fir, hemlock, aspen and pines trees to eat the tender layer of tissue below. Sometimes, they will completely chew threw, and thus kill, trees. They may also gnaw used ax handles, canoe paddles and other items for the salt and oil they contain. The two large, front gnawing teeth continue to grow as long as the Porcupine lives.
When threatened, the North American Porcupine places his snout between his forelegs and spins around presenting its rear to the enemy. If attacked, contrary to popular belief, the Porcupine does not throw its quills; instead, it...
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