Porcupine on a log eating berries

This mammal is not the sharp-shooter that many people think. They do have sharp quills, but they don't shoot them through the air at a predator like arrows. Instead, they turn and swing their barbed-quill tail at the predator, embedding the quills in the intruder on contact, usually in their face. This happens to their main predator, the fisher, and to dogs that get too close. Quills are really modified hairs. They are attached loosely to the porcupine, so they come out easily.

The porcupine is a nocturnal (nighttime) animal from the rodent family. Rodents love to chew on things and the porcupine is no exception. They can cause a lot of damage as they chow down on plants that they love. Research by high school students in Wisconsin show that porcupines prefer oak trees, but also eat some aspens and white pine bark, limbs and the canopy.

Porcupines are slow movers with their chunky round bodies. Look for them by day high in the trees. Porcupines look like a dark round ball about the size of a raccoon. At night they're on the move, climbing between trees in search of food. In the winter they live in dens located in hollowed trees, rocky areas, and culverts between November and April. Watch for their tracks in the snow near these areas in central and northern Wisconsin.