How Do North American Porcupines Fight and Protect Themselves and Their Young?

Porcupines are the second-largest rodent in North America. One of their most striking features is all of the quills covering their bodies. Upon looking at their bodies, you may find yourself wondering “how do North American porcupines fight and protect themselves and their young?

If this is a question that’s been burning on your mind, you’ve come to the right page. Today, we’re going to discuss how a porcupine keeps itself (and its young) safe from predators. We will also break down some additional things you should know about porcupines and their defense mechanisms. 

How Do North American Porcupines Fight and Protect Themselves and Their Young?

What makes North American porcupines such interesting animals is that they are walking around wearing their shield. A porcupine is covered from head to toe with sharp and strong quills. This is very helpful to the rodent because if it’s ever the victim of an attack, the porcupine can face its posterior at the preditor. 

Porcupines can also use their tails as weapons against attackers because their tails are also covered in sharp spikey quills. When a North American porcupine is under attack, it will lash its tail out toward the predator as a warning. If the predator doesn’t back off, those quills on the porcupine’s tail and body can do a lot of damage. 

If something attacks the porcupine, the quills will become embedded in their skin. When this happens, the quills easily detach from the porcupine. This can be very painful for the attacker.

North American porcupines are born with soft quills, but they become hard a few days after birth. When the mother can sense danger, she will chatter her teeth and raise her quills. The young porcupines will mimic her actions to stay safe.

Do Porcupines Fight Each Other?

In general, porcupines aren’t aggressive animals. Even though they are covered in sharp spikes, they don’t use them unless it’s absolutely necessary. If a porcupine has to, it can put up a good fight. If need be, a porcupine may even fight another porcupine. 

Some homeowners have even caught the act on video from security cameras on their property. They heard the noises coming from outside and when they check their camera’s footage they found two porcupines fighting. This has a lot of people wondering “why do Porcupines fight?

Do Porcupines Fight Over Mates?

Male porcupines will fight each other over a mate. These are not friendly fights either. When it comes to mating with a female porcupine, the males can fight for hours on end. These fights often don’t end until one porcupine is too injured to continue. 

Do Porcupines Fight Over Territory?

Porcupines generally aren’t territorial. Most of the year, these animals will live in solidarity. They will have a 14-acre range which they will view as their territory, and use to find food and for sleeping. During the winter months, they will share a den with other porcupines. 

When a porcupine establishes its 14-acre home range, it typically doesn’t get aggressive if other porcupines are nearby. The only time a porcupine may attempt fighting over territory is if it’s chasing another porcupine out of the tree that it’s residing in.

Do Porcupines Fight Over Food Sources?

It’s not common for porcupines to fight over food sources. Several porcupines can gather around food and not become aggressive. Porcupines are typically very tolerant of other porcupines. In some cases, when food is involved, porcupines may chatter their teeth at each other.

While porcupines typically don’t fight over food, there have been times when a larger porcupine would try to fight a smaller porcupine over food. However, in most cases, porcupines ignore each other. If several porcupines are around a food source, there is typically enough for more than one porcupine.

How Do Porcupines Fight Each Other?

When porcupines fight, one is typically the aggressor while the other will defend itself. The porcupine that is defending itself will face its head and stomach away from the aggressor. With its tail facing the aggressor, all of the quills on the porcupine will begin to stick up. 

The aggressor will then lunge toward the porcupine that’s defending itself. When this happens, all the vulnerable parts of the porcupine’s body are protected. This causes the porcupine that’s being the aggressor to end up getting quills stuck to its face. 

Unless the porcupines are fighting over mating a female, the aggressor will often back off once it has been hurt by getting quills in its face.

Do Porcupines Fight Other Animals?

Porcupines aren’t aggressive animals and they will only fight if they feel that they are being threatened. A lot of people ask us “do porcupines attack other animals, or only defend themselves?

Porcupines will only attack to defend themselves. They know how to use their quills to cause pain but will only do so if it’s necessary. Before using its quills as a weapon for defense, the porcupine will give off some warnings to the preditor, such as:

How Do Porcupines Defend Themselves Against Other Animals?

The porcupine will give the other animal some warnings to back off. If the animal still insists on fighting, the porcupine will put up a fight that could be very dangerous for the animal pursuing the fight. Porcupines are smart, so they will always keep their face shielded during a fight. 

From there, they will whip their tail around in an attempt to hit the aggressor. A hit from a spikey tail whipping around can do a lot of damage. Even lunging at a porcupine can cause injury to the preditor when the quills get embedded in its skin.

Can Porcupines Shoot Their Quills?

Maybe you’ve seen cartoons of porcupines aiming and shooting their quills at people and other animals, but in reality, that’s not how they work. Porcupines can’t actually shoot their quills!

Many people think that porcupines shoot their quills because the scene of an attack is usually covered with loose quills, which makes people think they can shoot them. 

What Enemies Do Porcupines Have? 

While porcupines aren’t aggressive, they do have several enemies that they need to watch out for. Some of these enemies include:

  • Fishers
  • Foxes
  • Coyotes
  • Wolves
  • Bobcats
  • Cougars
  • Lynxes
  • Bears
  • Owls & more

How Do Porcupines Defend Their Young?

Since a porcupine’s quills will strengthen merely days after birth, young porcupines have the right physical features to keep themselves protected. However, their mother will still be very protective to ensure they are safe. The mother is known to be able to sense danger and start raising her quills. Her young will copy her to learn how to defend themselves.

Mothers aren’t just protective of their young when a predator is near. They are always keeping their young guarded. Even when a mother porcupine climbs a tree to find food, it will ensure that its young is concealed in an area where predators can’t find them, such as a nearby hollow log or tall patch of grass.

Do Porcupines Ever Abandon Their Babies?

Porcupines typically don’t abandon their babies. However, a young porcupine could get separated from its mother. Porcupines are capable of living away from their mothers after 3 weeks of age. After all, they are born with everything they need to survive, with the exception of the skills to find food.

Most porcupine babies will stay with their mother until they reach 5 to 12 months of age. It’s not just the babies and mothers that stay together either. Some porcupines’ fathers will stay around while the babies develop as well.

How Does a Porcupine Attack?

Porcupines don’t really attack other animals. Only if they are seriously provoked, and there is no way of escaping or scaring an aggressor away, will a porcupine try and attack.

When a porcupine thinks that it is in danger, its first response is to shake its quills, making a rattling noise in hopes of scaring off the predator. If the predator doesn’t go away, the porcupine will try to run away.

If that doesn’t work, the porcupine gets fierce. It starts stamping its feet, growling, and hissing. While it’s making these noises it will shake and stamp to rattle its quills. Some animals are scared off by this, but if they aren’t then the porcupine has to go on the attack.

The porcupine runs backward at its attacker and tries to poke its quills into the attacker’s face or body. A porcupine’s rear end contains the heaviest quills so this is pretty effective. If the quills stick in the enemy’s body they pull out of the porcupine’s body. 

The quills have sharp scales on their tips that can stick into another animal’s skin. That sounds like it would hurt! If the quills break off, the tips stay inside the predator’s skin if it is unable to pull them out, and most animals don’t have that ability.

Usually, a predator learns its lesson from getting poked once, but sometimes a predator can keep annoying the porcupine until he is too tired to stand up to his enemy anymore. Porcupines can’t attack more than one predator because they can only aim their bodies at one predator at a time.

Do Porcupines Attack People?

Yes! If you annoy a porcupine too much he will get angry and attack you! No one wants to get those sharp quills in their skin. The quills also are usually pretty dirty, so getting one stuck in your skin can cause an infection. It’s best to admire porcupines from a distance!