The young male was born on July 28 to mother, Alice, and father, Patrick. This is the pair’s third offspring, and the family is currently on exhibit in the zoo’s newly renovated Children’s Zoo.
The North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) is a large rodent whose most recognizable physical characteristic are its spiky quills. They can have as many as 30,000 quills covering their bodies. The quills are modified hairs that are sharp, barbed hollow spines. They are used primarily for defense but also serve to insulate the body during winter. Despite popular belief, porcupines cannot shoot their quills, but when threatened, the porcupine contracts the muscles near the skin which causes the quills to stand up and out. The quills have a tiny barb on the tip that, when hooked in flesh, pull the quill from the porcupine’s skin and painfully imbed in the predators skin.
Porcupines are herbivores and eat leaves, twigs, and green plants. In winter, they may also eat tree bark.
Female porcupines are solitary, except during the fall breeding season. They have a long gestation period that lasts for 202 days and typically give birth to just one offspring. Baby porcupines (porcupette) weigh about 450 grams at birth. At birth, the quills are very soft but begin to harden a few hours after birth. The quills continue to harden and grow as the baby matures.
Females provide all care for the offspring, and for the first two weeks, porcupettes rely totally on their mother for sustenance. The babies will nurse for up to four months but begin eating solid foods as early as three weeks of age. The young stay close to mother an average of six months.
The North American Porcupine is listed as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List, but they are threatened, to some notable measure, by hunting and habitat loss. As of 1994, they were listed as an endangered species in Mexico.