Did you know that porcupines eat pumpkins?
One of my favorite Central Oregon animals is the porcupine, which happens to be the second largest rodent in North America (third in the world, after capybara and beaver); but it is not the animal that first comes to mind when I think of Halloween. North American porcupines eat plants and favor any number of herbaceous delicacies. Porcupines rely entirely on their nose for food search. Considered a nocturnal, generalist herbivore, porcupines consume tree bark, leaves, conifer needles, buds from conifers and deciduous trees, wildflowers, fruit, nuts, rose hips, and ground vegetation. They’ve been known to chew on axe handles and tires for salt. So I guess squash shouldn’t be a surprise.
This summer I was preparing for a porcupine program and found a YouTube video you have to see! Meet “Teddy Bear” the porcupine – Teddy Bear was orphaned and taken to animal shelter called Zooniversity in Dallas. He now travels to schools teaching people about porcupines – and winning their hearts with his cuteness! As zookeeper Allison Blankenship asks questions, Teddy’s little squeaks seem to answer her back.
- Porcupines live up to 20 years old. They are the second oldest living rodent in the world. (following Naked Mole Rats)
- They do not hibernate, they are active all year.
- Like monkeys they are divided into old world and new world species. Old World porcupines are much larger than New World porcupines with quills up to a foot long. In Africa, they are thought to bring good luck and are worn as ornaments by many tribes.
- North American porcupines have approximately 30,000 quills on their bodies.
- They are very peaceful yet territorial rodents and may become offensive when threatened.
- Porcupines cannot throw their quills at predators; rather the quills get detached from their body when in proximity to other animal’s skin.
- North American porcupines do not eat and sleep in the same tree.
- Porcupines can accidentally stick themselves to a branch, or any other thing while falling from a tree. They are the only mammal that can produce their own antibiotic.
- If you want to see one up close, visit the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon.