Identification | Biology | Damage ID | Management | Handling

Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum). Photo from National Parks Gallery, Public Domain.


Porcupines (Erethizon dorsatum), sometimes called “porkies” or “quill pigs,” are heavy-bodied, shortlegged, slow, and awkward rodents, with a waddling gait. They rely on their sharp, barbed quills (up to 30,000 per individual) for defense.

Legal Status

Porcupines are considered nongame animals and are not protected.

Physical Description

Color of the porcupine ranges from brownish yellow to black. They are easily identified by their quills, which have white tips. The quills are hollow, ranging from 2 to 3 inches long. Adults are typically 25 to 30 inches (64 to 76 cm) long and weigh 10 to 30 pounds (4.5 to 13.5kg).

Species Range

The porcupine is a common resident of the coniferous and mixed forests of western and northern North America. It wanders widely and is found from cottonwood stands along prairie river bottoms and deserts to alpine tundra.

Range of the porcupine in North America. Image by PCWD.

Voice and Sounds

A porcupine will clack its teeth if it feels threatened. They whine, moan, and grunt during mating season.

Tracks and Signs

Clipped twigs on fresh snow, tracks, and gnawings on trees identify the presence of a porcupine.

Porcupine sign: a) tracks showing drag marks of tail; b) toothmarks on tree limbs. Image by PCWD.


Information on this species is based on the chapter in Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage (Hygnstrom, Larson, Timm, ed. 1994), written by Sandford D. Schemnitz (New Mexico State University).