Nature Bulletin No. 144 February 28, 1948
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
William N. Erickson, President
Roberts Mann, Supt. of Conservation
There are two animals that other wild animals don't bother. One is the
skunk. The other is the porcupine, also called the "quilly pig" or "spiny
hog", known to everybody in the north woods and the Rocky Mountains
as " Porky" . Years ago, there were porcupines here in Cook County
and in the forests of all the northern states.
Next to the beaver, the porcupine is the largest of all the rodents -- the
gnawing mammals. Sluggish, stupid, surly and solitary, Porky has a
bulky clumsy body, small blunt head, short legs, and a thick hide
covered with black or brownish black fur, very dense and woolly, and
long coarse glistening outer hairs tipped with yellowish white. On his
sides and back, from the crown of his head to the end of his short thick
tail, he is armored with long, whitish, black-tipped needle-pointed
quills, loosely set in his skin.
When in danger, he puts his nose between his forelegs, turns his back,
and raises his quills until he looks like a huge pincushion. If attacked,
he drives quills into the paws or face of the attacker with whip-like
slaps of his tail and rump. The quills are not poisonous and Porky
cannot "shoot" them, as many believe. Tiny barbs on the tip of each
quill, pointing backward, cause it to work deeper and deeper into the
flesh, resulting in a festering sore, and sometimes death.
Porcupines are equipped for climbing by having feet with rough soles,
long toes, and long sharp claws. In winter they live on the small twigs
and inner bark of trees, and some trees are badly damaged or killed by
them. In summer they eat the buds and leaves of trees and shrubs, herbs,
some aquatic plants, and wild fruits. They love salt and will even chew
the handles of tools used by sweaty hands. Unoccupied cabins and
outbuildings are often badly damaged by their gnawing.
Porcupines are protected, by law or unwritten law, as being the one
animal an unarmed starving man can easily kill. The meat is not a
delicacy, but Indians eat them and use the quills for decorations.
Otherwise, except the Cougar and the Fisher, a large member of the
weasel family, now very rare, Porky has few enemies.
And no close friends.
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Update: June 2012