Nature has created several beautiful creatures that roam on the surface of the globe. These animals range from the tiny creepy creatures to the huge mammals. They fascinate the viewers with their varying behaviors and habits. Porcupine is one such little mammal that appears different from many others of his family due to its incredibly unique features and especially the spines covering the body.
Table of Contents
- Basic Information about Porcupine
- 4 Uses of Porcupine
- Ten Fascinating Facts about Porcupine
- Porcupine Damage in Your Yard
- Porcupine Control
Basic Information about Porcupine
Porcupines belong to the family of rodents under the crown of the mammals. Unlike other rodents who have fur or skin covering their bodies, the porcupines have sharp spines extending out from their skin. The major purpose of these is to work as a defense as the enemy comes closer. The porcupines include two major classifications: Hystricidae family that refers to the Old World porcupines and the Erethizontidae that means the New World porcupines. The collective name for these is Hystricognathi. This is the order of rodents that has several diverse and distinguished features as compared to other rodent orders.
Appearance and Size
Porcupines do not have a standard size. The size varies from species to species. In general, the porcupines are as small as 60 centimeters and as large as 90 centimeters. The length of the species is without the tail measurement. The tails also have different lengths. They usually weigh within the range 12 – 35 pounds. The smallest porcupines are known as Rothschilds Porcupine, while the largest one is the African Porcupine.
Porcupines’ bodies are covered with a lot of quills or spines and mostly are brown, white or gray in color. Their quills have genetically altered hairs coated with thick plates of keratin. The structure of the body is useful in defending them from the predators. Porcupines are silent animals. They have tiny ears and eyes affixed to the face. The legs are also small in length, and each has five toes that have claws at the end. The usual length of the spine is 3 inches.
As compared to other rodents the porcupines live long. Their average age is much higher than many of the rodents. Because of this unusual characteristic, they are referred as the longest living rodents. They can live up to 27 years.
Diet and Habits
These species like to feed on natural vegetation; this makes them a herbivore. The major ingredient of their diet is the leaves, herbs, twigs, and green plants. Clover is one of their most favorite plants. They search for their food themselves by searching the trees. In this search, they can quickly climb the high trees. Unlike the porcupines in North America, the ones in Africa continue their search for food by staying on the ground. They fall in the category of the nocturnal rodents and are usually seen at night. If they do not have enough food, they would come out in the daytime also and hunt for the food.
Quills are the spines extending out of the skin as their defensive weapon. There is not a specific length or color of the quills. Quills vary from animal to animal. The variation is also because of the age and the species of the porcupine. They are in fact the hair modifications. In old World Porcupines, they are deeply embedded in the skin and exist in group form. The situation is different in the case of the New World Porcupines as they are attached to individual structures to their bodies. As the animal feels the fear of the enemy around or gets in contact with any such threat, it shakes the body and releases the spines towards the enemy. The quills are shot at longer distances.
Porcupines are usually found in the tropical and temperate forests of Asia, Southern Europe, Africa, and North and South America. Besides the forests, they are also found in the rocky hideouts and in the small hilly areas too. The New World porcupines are usually found in the areas rich in trees while the Old World porcupines prefer the rocky regions as high as 2,100 ft.
4 Uses of Porcupine
1. In Nature
The porcupines are found abundantly in many regions of the world. In many parts of the world, they are not just considered as the animals, but a real treat served on the menu They are popular food element in the countries falling in the geographical regions of the South East Asia like Vietnam. In some parts of the world, their spines and quills are used for the decoration of clothes. As the craze for the porcupine based recipes is constantly increasing in these parts of the world, therefore they are being included in the endangered species in these regions.
The quills are a great accessory to beautify the costumes in many parts of the world. The quills are dyed in varying colors and then added to the costumes, bags, and headdresses.
2. In Politics
Keeping in view their unique characteristics, they are becoming a popular mascot for several events all over the globe. In the American region, because of its peaceful, calm and defensive behavior, it is used to represent the Libertarian parties. In North Hampshire, it is used to represent the Free State Project.
3. State Symbols
The word porcupine finds its roots in the Asanti-Twi dictionary. The closest word to this is the Kotoko which according to the local dictionary means to get down and attack the enemy. For this nativity, the porcupine was assumed as the national insignia of the Ashanti State in Ghana. They love the way porcupine defends himself by changing its postures and the offensive angles. This baffles the enemy and hits him in the area which they are not aware of. The same strategy is also used by the military forces of this region. The soccer players of the Ashati official team are named as the porcupine warriors. The club uses the animal as their official emblem.
4. As food
Porcupines are not just a prey of many predating wild neighbors. But over the past few years, they have become a popular treat in the human menu too. Delicacies made by the porcupine are a favorite savory in the Vietnam region. There are a number of recipes like the porcupine meatballs in sauce that are loved by the people in the South East Asia.
Ten Fascinating Facts about Porcupine
These spiky, spiny and passive animals are an interesting creature found both in the wild and your backyards. Some interesting facts associated with these rodents are as follows:
- The word porcupine comes from the English and the French dictionary. In French, it is derived from the word porc d’espine that refers to “thorny pig.”
- They are the third most abundantly found rodents in the world after capybara and the beaver.
- The quills are released when the porcupine is threatened, and it shakes the tail hard. The quills that are lost regenerate.
- A total of 30,000 quills is found on the back, sides and the tail of the porcupine.
- Old world and the New World Porcupines are the major classifications of the porcupines in the world. They are found in Southern Europe, Asia, and Africa and the North America and Northern South America respectively.
- The old and the new world porcupines are different in their habits. The Old World can swim well as compared to the New World porcupines that can climb with the help of their tails.
- They feed themselves on the vegetation as they are a herbivore.
- The quills are not poisonous. They are naturally covered with an antibiotic that does not cause any harm.
- The quills are usually soft in the early years of the life. As the porcupine grows up, the quills become hard and rigid. This happens after six months when they completely leave their mothers and start living independently.
- It is very difficult to remove the quills as they have pointed tips.
Porcupine Damage in Your Yard
Porcupines are not just calm and peaceful rodents, but they can be a real menace at times. This happens when they start invading the yards and the lawns in the home. They will start digging and running around your garden and become a challenge for any homeowner. This 30 pounds heavy and 2 1/2 feet long rodent have incredibly strong teeth and claws. The quills covering the body of the porcupine are a defense for the animal itself but a scary offense for the human beings around. They can be shot out of their body like a sharp arrow and hit the prey. They are the silent invaders. Once entered in the backyard, they can cause severe damage to your plantation. They dig deep down the ground and gnaw the tree barks making them feeble. For a hobbyist whose passion exists in the trees, flowers, and fruits, the presence of porcupine is not at all welcoming. They can ruin the fruits and flowers as being herbivore they love to feed on these. Your pets ‘ safety is also at stake because of the quills. Hence, once the signs of their presence are clear, immediate steps must be taken to get rid of them.
The silence of the porcupine must not be underestimated. They can be a nuisance when they become part of your domestic interiors and exteriors. There are numerous ways to control them. Some easy ways to control these spooky invaders are as follows:
1. Build a Fence
Fencing around the plantation including the tall trees, flower plants, and even the entire garden can be a helpful way to control further damage caused by the porcupines. The best option is to use the easily available chicken fences. In areas that are worse affected by the porcupines, chicken wires can be added with an electric wire too. The pest control experts suggest that it is better to place the fence at the height of 18 inches. This stops them from reaching their food source, and so their movement can be easily contained.
There are several other types of fences also available in the market. Before deciding on a particular one, it is better to discuss the matter with the experts in the locality. The fence must be chosen according to the damage caused, and the frequency of the porcupine invasion. It is suggested that the height of the fence should be such that the porcupine can neither crawl through it nor jump over it.
2. Trap the Porcupine
Some homeowners prefer using the more humane methods that do not hurt these rodents. The easiest way to get rid of the quilled animals is to set up the traps for them. Although it requires enough time and there are often chances that the trap fails to get hold of the animal, yet it is one of the most referred ways to catch the rodent. After some patience and hard work, the homeowner can get rid of these porcupines. The traps can be bought from ant pest control center, hardware shop or garden accessory stores. The traps work effectively when they are added with the baits like a thick coating of peanut butter or salted apple. The baits make the traps attractive for the rodent. The best places to set up the trap are those close to the openings allowing them to enter their holes or the hollow trees. The enticing baits must be chosen like the sunflower seeds. Once the trap gets hold of the porcupine, it can be removed at a safer place or handed over to the pest control officers.
3. Repellent Products
Sometimes it is better to discourage the movement of the porcupine in your premises. The best way to do so is to use several types of repelling bodies available in the markets. These repellants include the chemicals and certain machines that generate sounds and light to keep away the porcupine. The two major repelling techniques are as follows.
- Ultrasonic waves
Ultrasonic waves are a safe way to repel the porcupines. These devices generate particular frequency sounds that are not audible to the human ear and many other animals, but they are very disturbing for the porcupines. Once these sounds are constantly played around, they keep the porcupines on the bay, and they gradually start keeping away from these areas.
- Spray on plants and trees
Several chemical sprays are available in the market that keeps away the porcupine because of their smell or taste. The fox scent sprays are appreciated for their longer lasting impact as the porcupines hate the smell. Home spray can also be created; you can make it with the help of the fox urine. Pepper spray is another remedy to contain the porcupines. Whatever spray you use; it must be evenly sprinkled all over the affected area. Moths and cotton balls soaked in the sprays can be placed in the depths to deter the porcupines.
4. Call Professionals
Once things become out of control, the professional help is required even in the case of the porcupines. Sometimes they become out of control or enter into a congested area like an attic. In this condition, it becomes tough to control them. The trapping and controlling is a real challenge when the things get out of your hands. In this case, it is better to call a professional. The professionals can be of great help in early stages. The experts can give the best suggestion, which if followed correctly can be of real help and stop the damage at early stage.