Erethizon dorsatum 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Rodentia Erethizontidae

Scientific Name: Erethizon dorsatum
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common Name(s):
English North American Porcupine
Taxonomic Source(s): Barthelmess, E.L. 2016. Family Erethizontidae. In: Wilson, D.E., Lacher, T.E., Jr and Mittermeier, R.A. (eds), Handbook of Mammals of the World. Vol. 6. Lagomorphs and Rodents: Part 1, Lynx, Barcelona.
Taxonomic Notes: There are several recognized subspecies including: E. d. dorsatum Linneaus, 1758 – Canada east of Yukon and British Columbia (except Labrador and Newfoundland) and NE and NC United States. E. d. bruneri Swenk 1916 – Great Plains east of the Rocky Mountains. E. d. couesi Mearns, 1897 – W Texas, New Mexico and C Arizona. E. d. epixanthum Brandt, 1835 – C Washington south into California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, W Colorado, Wyoming and W Montana. E. d. myops Merriam, 1900 – most of Alaska and the Yukon Territory in Canada. E. d. nigriscens J. A. Allen, 1903 – British Columbia and N Washington State. E. d. picinum Bangs, 1900 – Labrador. Endemic to North America including in the Mexican states of Sonora, Chihuahua, and Sinaloa.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-06-10
Assessor(s): Emmons, L.
Reviewer(s): Amori, G.
Contributor(s): Timm, R. & Linzey, A.
This species is listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining at nearly the rate required to qualify for listing in a threatened category.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species occurs in the southern half of Canada, and northern and western United States, as well as scattered populations throughout the eastern U.S; the northern boundary of Mexico from the lower-middle Baja Peninsula, east to the eastern border of mainland Mexico in a relatively straight line, but not in Baja or the Yucatan (Barthelmess 2016, Ceballos and Oliva 2005). There is a new record from the Sierra Juárez, municipality of Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico (Gatica-Colima et al. 2014). There have also been records that their range extends into the Eastern Margin of the Edwards Plateau in Texas (Baird et al. 2009) and Webb County (Goetze and Miller 2012). Their range has also extended into northeastern Oklahoma (Caire et al. 2009).
Countries occurrence:
Canada; Mexico; United States
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The North American porcupine is common and widespread. This species goes through population cycles, which peak every 12 to 20 years; densities vary from 0.77 to 12 individuals per square kilometre (Wilson and Ruff 1999).
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Porcupines are found in a variety of habitats including dense forests, tundra, grasslands and desert shrub communities. Like their distribution, their diet is also generalized, but shows a marked difference between winter and summer seasons. Winter foods are primarily the bark, cambium and phloem of trees. In the spring their diet shifts and porcupines begin feeding on roots, steams, leaves, berries, seeds and grasses. This species primarily is nocturnal and does not hibernate (Woods 1973). The average home range size was found to be 0.98- 0.33 km² at the 95% isopleth, 0.72- 0.25 km² at the 90% isopleth, and 0.25-0.07 km² at the 50% isopleth. and used only white spruce and paper birch trees for foraging in Alaska (Coltrane and Sinnott 2013). Predation increases during the winter when there is more precipitation (Mabille et al. 2010). In the winter the species survives based on adaptability of food intake, tolerance of low-quality diets and low ambient temperatures; they count on summer forages to replenish their fat and protein (Coltrane et al. 2011).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): No major threats to the species as a whole.

However, because of the damage caused to property, including trees, crops and car tires, porcupines are often hunted or trapped. In Mexico, the species is considered in danger of extinction due to hunting (Ceballos and Oliva 2005). More effective population controls may be the management of a healthy population of fishers, the porcupine's main predator. Mortality is also known to be caused by collisions with cars (Woods 1973). In Mexico it is endangered due to its low densities; poaching, and loss of suitable habitat which has been transformed through livestock management and water exploitation (Ponce and Ceballos 2014).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: North American porcupine habitat falls within several protected areas within Canada, the U.S., and Mexico which has allowed the species to reestablish its populations.

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.1. Forest - Boreal
1. Forest -> 1.4. Forest - Temperate
3. Shrubland -> 3.4. Shrubland - Temperate
4. Grassland -> 4.1. Grassland - Tundra
4. Grassland -> 4.4. Grassland - Temperate

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education

Bibliography [top]

Baird, A.B., Pauly, G.B., Hall, D.W. and LaDuc, T.J. 2009. Records of the Porcupine (Erethizon Dorsatum) From the Eastern Margins of the Edwards Plateau of Texas. Texas Journal of Science 61(1): 65-67.

Barthelmess, E.L. 2016. Family Erethizontidae. In: Wilson, D.E., Lacher, T.E., Jr and Mittermeier, R.A. (eds), Handbook of Mammals of the World. Vol. 6. Lagomorphs and Rodents: Part 1, Lynx, Barcelona.

Caire, W., Smith, B. and Estep, D. 2009. New records on the Porcupine, Erethizon dorsatum, (Rodentia: Erethizontidae) in Oklahoma. Proceedings- Oklahoma Academy of Science 88: 15-20.

Ceballos, G. and Oliva, G. 2005. Los mamíferos silvestres de México. Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad and Fondo de Cultura Económica, México.

Coltrane, J.A. and Sinnott, R. 2013. Winter Home Range and Habitat Use by Porcupines in Alaska. Journal of Wildlife Management 77(3): 505-513.

Coltrane, J.A., Farley, S.,Barboza, P.S., Kohl, F., Sinnott, R. and Barnes, B.M. 2011. Seasonal body composition, water turnover, and field metabolic rates in porcupines (Erethizon dorsatum) in Alaska. Journal of Mammology 92(3): 601-610.

Gatica-Colmina, A., Navarrete-Laborde, B., Ortiz-González, A. and Rosas-Rosas, O.C. 2014. Nuevo registro de distribución del puerco espín del norte Erethizon dorsatum en Chihuahua, México. Acta zoológica mexicana 30(2): 399-402.

Goetze, J. R. and Miller, T.D. 2012. Two Significant Records of Mammals from the Tamaulipan Biotic Province of Texas. Texas Journal of Science 64(1-4): 195-201.

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-3. Available at: (Accessed: 07 December 2016).

Mabille, G., Descamps, S. and Berteaux, D. 2010. Predation as a probable mechanism relating winter weather to population dynamics in a North American porcupine population. Population Ecology 52(4): 537-546.

Ponce, E. and Ceballos, G. 2014. North American Porcupine. In: Gerardo Ceballos (ed.), Mammals of Mexico, pp. 440-442. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

Wilson, D.E. and Ruff, S. 1999. Family Erezithontidae. In: Don E. Wilson, Sue Ruff (ed.), The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals, pp. 671-673. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, USA.

Woods, C. A. 1973. Erethizon dorsatum. Mammalian Species 29: 1-6.

Citation: Emmons, L. 2016. Erethizon dorsatum. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T8004A22213161. . Downloaded on 23 April 2017.
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