Jun 19 2013

I’m a Porcupette

Published by at 6:30 am under Mammals

Porcupine youngster, Lycoming, May 2013 (photo by Meredith Lombard)

When I saw this cute photo by Meredith Lombard I knew I had to write about baby porcupines but I soon learned that the truth about these rodents is stranger than fiction.

For starters, baby porcupines are called porcupettes.

Each porcupette is a precocial only child, born with open eyes, well formed teeth, a full coat of fur, and able to climb trees a few hours after birth.  In only two weeks he eats green plants.  In three months, he’s weaned.

Like his parents he has three kinds of fur: a wooly undercoat, long coarse guard hairs, and sharp hollow quills with barbs at the tip that slant backward.  When born his quills are soft and harmless (good thing for his mother!) but within half an hour they’ve stiffened into the protective coat that saves his life.  The only place he doesn’t have quills is on his belly — just like his parents.

Neither he nor his parents “throw” their quills but the quills are so loosely attached that they stick easily to any critter that comes close.  That includes dad when he approaches mom to conceive a porcupette. Needless to say copulation is a very careful business.  No hugs are involved, but there’s a lot of courting to get her in the mood.   Dad whines and dances on three legs, showing her his equipment.  When she says “You’re the one” he showers her with urine.  Then they mate.

I’m not kidding.

All of this happens in October or November.  Seven months later: a porcupette.

(photo by Meredith Lombard)

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “I’m a Porcupette”

  1. MomTeeon 19 Jun 2013 at 8:24 am

    Most of all, I love the name! Wonder who came up with that one?

  2. John P. Englishon 19 Jun 2013 at 5:09 pm

    Never pet a porcupette :-)

  3. Kate St. Johnon 19 Jun 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Made me laugh out loud, John.

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