Erethizon dorsatum 

Scope: Global

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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.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Linzey, A.V., Emmons, L. & Timm, R.
Reviewer(s): McKnight, M. (Global Mammal Assessment Team) & Amori, G. (Small Nonvolant Mammal Red List Authority)
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:Southern half of Canada, and northern and western United States, as well as scattered populations elsewhere in the eastern U.S. On 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 (Ceballos and Oliva 2005).
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. Local population densities range from 1 individual/km2 - 9.5 individuals/km2, with cyclical population peaks every 12-20 years (Woods 1973).
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.

The 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 such as eastern and western hemlock, sugar maple, and Douglas fir. Porcupines will often feed heavily on a single tree, causing extensive damage or death. In the spring the diet shifts as porcupines begin feeding on roots, steams, leaves, berries, seeds and grasses. This species is primarily nocturnal and does not hibernate (Woods 1973).

Reproduction occurs during fall or early winter. Following a relatively long gestation, females give birth to one young in spring or early summer. Litters of more than 1 are uncommon (Woods 1973). An individual North American porcupine may have as many as 30,000 quills, measuring 7.5 cm long, which are used for defense purposes. Typical defense behavior is backing up towards the predator, swinging the tail, which has a high concentration of quills.

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, it 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 automobiles (Woods 1973).

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]

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.

Wilson, D.E. and Ruff, S. 1999. The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, USA.

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

Citation: Linzey, A.V., Emmons, L. & Timm, R. 2008. Erethizon dorsatum. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T8004A12881059. . Downloaded on 04 December 2016.
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