Where do porcupines live?
Porcupines are most common in hilly, rocky country, but they can adapt to most habitats—excessively moist forests and the most barren of deserts seem to be the only exceptions. They have even been found on Mt. Kilimanjaro, as high up as 11,480 feet.
Tags: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, East Africa, West/Central Africa
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What is a porcupine?
The word porcupine means “quill pig” in Latin; however, porcupines are large rodents and have no relation to pigs. The crested porcupine is the largest and heaviest of all African rodents. The head is roundish and rather domed, with a blunt muzzle and small eyes and ears. The legs are short and sturdy, and each foot has five toes, all equipped with powerful claws. The porcupine’s most recognizable feature is, of course, its quills. Quill length varies on different parts of the body, ranging from 1 inch to 1 foot on the back. Usually, the quills lie flat against the body, but if danger threatens, the porcupine raises and spreads them. Scales on quill tips lodge in the skin like fishhooks and are difficult to pull out. New quills grow in to replace lost ones.
They will cheat on their vegetarian diets.
Porcupines primarily eat roots, tubers, bark, and fallen fruit but also have a fondness for cultivated root crops such as cassava, potatoes, and carrots. Sometimes, they will even take carrion back to the burrow to nibble on.
Porcupines like to set up homes in burrows.
Porcupines modify natural shelters among roots and rocks, inhabit holes made by other animals, or dig their own hideaways. These burrows are most commonly occupied in family units.
Females like to give birth in the comfort of their own homes.
The gestation period of the African crested is about 112 days. Between one and four young are born in the grass-lined burrow. They are well-developed and are born with open eyes. The young leave home for the first time at about 2 weeks of age, as their quills—soft at birth—begin to harden. They are quite playful and, outside the burrow, they run and chase one another. The young are suckled from 6 to 8 weeks of age and then begin to eat vegetable matter.
The porcupine attacks in reverse.
It warns potential enemies of its defense system when alarmed. The porcupine will stamp its feet, click its teeth, and growl or hiss while vibrating specialized quills that produce a characteristic rattle. If an enemy persists, the porcupine runs backward until it rams its attacker. The reverse charge is most effective because the hindquarters are the most heavily armed, and the quills are directed to the rear.