Do Porcupines Shoot Their Quills?

Porcupine is large rodent coated with sharp and pointy spines, or quills, that helps to protect them from predators.

Porcupines Shoot Their Quills

A lot of top naturalists would hold the notion that porcupines can’t shoot their quills against the belief of a lot of people who have come in close contact with the said rodent.

They dismissed the idea of porcupines shooting their quills a long time ago, terming it as delusional and a mere assumption of the naïve few.

If you are asking if Porcupines shoot their quills, this article will answer that question.

Read on.


Contrary to the belief that Porcupines do not shoot their quills, there was evidence that porcupines actually do shoot their quills when a researcher, on one winter morning in Ontario, came across a porcupine.

He was trailing a pack of timber wolves in hopes of catching them asleep after having a fresh kill.

He saw and chased down a porcupine to a corner, poking the porcupine with a long stick in hopes that the creature would reveal to him how quill shooting was done.

This could be done by some mysterious body mechanism; he wondered as he observed the reaction of the porcupine.

The most confusing thing about this researcher’s quest was that he often finds quills stuck on his clothes and slightly poking his skin on his way home as if to say the porcupine had shot him while he was distracted.

Years later, he had almost erased that entire experience when a porcupine took his mind back to that previous experience.

If you have seen a porcupine up close, you will realize that on the back and sides of the rodent are multitudes of quills that slide backward when he is relaxed and these quills are hidden beneath a mop of hair.

The upper side of the rodent’s tail is hairless and quite flat, fully covered with shorter quills well arranged, pointing forward in a crossed pattern.

The quills on the body and tail of a porcupine are very lightly attached to their skin, and this causes them to easily get stuck to any object or thing that comes in contact with them.

Two major factors about the porcupine are that the armor is often renewed just as they go off, new ones grow back, and as the fresh quills come up, the old ones get weak and fall off.

The evidence that porcupines shed their quills can be found in places where porcupines gather.

During the period of the new quill coming up, any sudden flip of the porcupine’s tail would cause some of the quills to fly around, and this is proof that porcupines actually shoot their quills.

This quill shooting by the porcupine occurs under certain conditions, which is in scenarios when the porcupine feels threatened or under attack.

The funny part of Porcupine’s quill shooting is that it may be surprising to the porcupine way more than it is surprising to a lot of naturalists because the porcupine has no idea that his tail is a slingshot weapon for shooting quills.

This is because whenever the porcupine shoots its quills, it is frightened and usually does that with its back turned and its eyes facing the ground.

This makes it difficult for the porcupine to actually aim its quills at any target due to the fact that it just flings its tail aimlessly into the air with no sense of specific aim. \

This doesn’t take away the fact that the quills from porcupines are painful and dangerous when they come in contact with your skin.

This is so because the quills are covered in dirt, and unlike humans, porcupines don’t have a daily bath plan, so they possibly get their bodies in contact with several unhealthy particles that get stuck on their quills which, when shot at a human can cause severe health consequences.

So basically, porcupines shoot their quills when they feel threatened or under attack, and this is contrary to the belief of a lot of naturalists who maintained that porcupines don’t shoot their quills.

Since it is proven that porcupines actually shoot their quills involuntarily and aimlessly, it is advisable to wear thick gloves or protective gear whenever you intend to hold or meddle with this unique creature.


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My only suggestion to one who would monkey with a porcupine’s tail is this: wear tough gloves on your hands and glasses to protect your eyes.


Behavior and Habitat of Porcupines

The species of porcupine seen in most forests in Northern and Southern America are excellent climbers and enjoy staying on trees. A lot of them have a body part called prehensile tails that help them to climb better. The North  American Porcupine is a native of the United States and Canada. It is the biggest porcupine species. The North American porcupine is reputed to have more than 25,000 quills. It is a wood eater and has long front teeth to help eat it. The North American Porcupine feed on stems and natural bark. It can even feast on paddles, leaves, fruits and buds.

Other species of the porcupine are native to Europe, Africa and Asia continents. This means that porcupines can live in deserts, forests and grassy areas.

Female porcupines give birth to up to one or four porcupines. This number varies according to species. Porcupettes are born with soft quills, which become hard after a few days. Porcupettes begin to live in the wild alone sixty to sixty-five days after birth.


Porcupines Shoot Their Quills FAQ


Are porcupines dangerous to humans?

The only time a porcupine attacks a human is when it senses danger.

When it comes to humans, they’re terrified and treat them as if they were predators. You or your pets will not be bitten by a porcupine.


Is a porcupine a deadly creature?

When threatened, the porcupine will strike, but it is not normally violent.

Porcupines will clatter their jaws and emit a pungent stench to ward off predators if they feel threatened. The porcupine will turn away from the threat, flare its quills, and whip with its tail if the threat persists.


How poisonous are porcupines?

A quilled animal might die from trauma in extreme and serious cases. Porcupines aren’t venomous, but their quills are extremely sharp.

If your dog or cat gets quilled, you must take it to the vet right away. If an animal receives prompt medical care, death as a result of getting quilled is extremely rare.


What is the average lifespan of a pet porcupine?

They begin eating solid food after two weeks but nurse for another four to five months. A wild porcupine’s usual lifespan is four to six years, although pet porcupines have been recorded to survive for up to ten years.


Does losing quills harm a porcupine?

Porcupine’s quills are not firmly embedded in the skin, so losing quills is not harmful to the animal.


What feeds on a porcupine?

A lot of bigger predators like coyotes, great horned owls and leopards may kill a porcupine, but these predators have no effect on porcupine numbers.


What are porcupines’ weaknesses?

A porcupine’s weakest spot is its tender underbelly. But few predators have succeeded in figuring out how to maneuver around their quills to strike this weak spot. Porcupines also have poor vision, so oftentimes, they can’t tell where imminent danger originates from.



That’s all.

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