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.