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Cute Tuesday—The North American Porcupine

The North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) is the second largest rodent on the North American continent (second only to the beaver).  Despite possessing stupid levels of cute, they are effective at defense, with a rump full of sharp quills.  Quills are a type of strong, modified hair that can shed itself very easily—becoming embedded in a predator.  Even though they have this spiny armor, they are preyed upon by animals such as fishers and mountain lions (they do this by rolling them over onto their backs, exposing their soft bellies).  When they aren’t busy looking terrifyingly adorable, they are nibbling on various plants and wood, with their favorite food being the soft, nutritive inner bark of trees.  Because of their ability to be damaging to crops, fruit trees and equipment, a lot of farmers consider them a pest and hunt them from their land.  Even though this occurs, the species is still classified as Least Concern.

One of the reasons that you don’t find very many deer antlers lying around is because porcupines eat them!  They are good for their teeth and are a source of minerals that are otherwise difficult for the porcupine to find. 

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This chinchilla is truly enjoying the love she is getting!  They make such a happy face.  Sometimes they will move their little arms so that they can be scratched on the chest and armpits.  Others prefer to be pet behind the ears.  I have noticed that a lot of chinchillas are “sensitive” about having their whiskers or their bums pet, and will let you know with a surprised barking chirp. They will continue to give you a little barking chirp if you continue and may push your hand away, urine spray, or nip at you to continue to communicate that they don’t want  you to do that.  The video below is an example of very angry chinchilla growls and barks as they quarrel between themselves:

You can see that they will bat at each other with their arms and bare their teeth when pressed, and their eyes and whiskers take on an angry posture.  Continuing to agitate a chinchilla in this state could surely result in a painful bite.

This last video includes chinchillas making what I always interpret as “happy” or “pleasant” sounds.  These little cheeping noises usually accompany positive interactions or play time.  

Chinchillas are magical creatures that we are still learning lots about, but if you take time to listen to them and recognize the communications they are offering you, they can be charismatic and rewarding pets to have.