A 30 000 quills barrier
The porcupine is the second largest rodent in the province, the beaver being the biggest. It has small legs and is rather slow. When it feels threatened, it goes to a hiding place like under a log or a rock or up a tree. When it cannot avoid the menace, the quills come in handy. It turns its back to the predator, hide its head in between its shoulders and bristle its quills.
The quills are actually modified hair, hollow and with the tip covered with prickles. There are over 30 000 quills and they are scattered on its back and tail. Contrary to popular belief, the porcupine cannot throw its quills but, they easily detach from its body when touched. Moreover, the porcupine can move its tail in a sudden movement towards the predator, loosing some quills, giving the impression that it is throwing them. The prickles at the tip of the quills make it very difficult to take them out.
The quills are black and white. This contrast, also seen on skunks and wolverines, is a warning sign for the other nocturnal animals that would want to approach.
Source : Prescott, Jacques et Pierre Richard. Mammifères du Québec et de l’est du Canada. Waterloo : Éditions Michel Quintin, 2004. Imprimé.
Photo : Jérôme Landry