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Porcupine - Erethizon dorsatum

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Potential Species of Concern

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S4

Agency Status
USFWS:
USFS:
BLM:
FWP Conservation Tier: 3


 

External Links





 
General Description
Porcupine adults in the Northwest average 30 inches long and 20 pounds in weight. Round, short-legged, and slow in movement, they are protected by a coat of quills that covers all but their underside and the insides of their legs. Up to 30,000 of these modified hairs, yellowish white and black- or brown-tipped, mix with coarse guard hairs, and lay over thick, brownish underfur. The hollow quill shafts may be up to 5 inches in length and the guard hairs twice as long. They concentrate on the rump and short tail. The Porcupine sheds this coat yearly. Long, heavy claws enable the Porcupine to climb and curl up in trees. Its excellent hearing and sense of smell make up for poor vision (Foresman 2012). At night the Porcupine's bright eyes appear red. Its grunts and high-pitched cries can be heard from a distance (Burt and Grossenheider 1964). Newborns are born with teeth, eyes open, and soft quills that harden within an hour. They can climb the same day.

General Distribution
Montana Range

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Western Hemisphere Range

 


Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations: 526

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density

Recency

 

(Records associated with a range of dates are excluded from time charts)



Migration
Non-migratory. However, in mountainous areas seasonal altitudinal migration may occur.

Habitat
Common in montane forests of western Montana, also occurs in brushy badlands, sagebrush semi-desert and alon streams and rivers (Hoffmann and Pattie 1968). Rockfall caves, ledge caves, hollow trees, or brushpiles for dens (Dodge 1982).

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
  • Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
    How Associations Were Made
    We associated the use and habitat quality (high, medium, or low) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
    1. Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2001, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
    2. Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species’ range and habitat requirements;
    3. Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point database associated with each ecological system;
    4. Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of “observations versus availability of habitat”.
    Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.  In general, species were associated as using an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.  However, species were not associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if point observations were associated with that system.  High, medium, and low habitat quality was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species in the literature.  The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignments of habitat quality.  If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact Bryce Maxell at bmaxell@mt.gov or (406) 444-3655.

    Suggested Uses and Limitations
    Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.  These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: http://mtnhp.org/requests/default.asp) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.  Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.  Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.  Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).  Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species’ known geographic range.

    Literature Cited
    • Adams, R.A.  2003.  Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation.  Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.  289 p.
    • Dobkin, D. S.  1992.  Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34.  Missoula, MT.
    • Foresman, K.R.  2001.  The wild mammals of Montana.  Special Publication No. 12.  Lawrence, KS: The American Society of Mammalogists.  278 p.
    • Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998.  Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates.  Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT.  1302 p.
    • Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young.  1999.  Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32.  72 p.
    • Maxell, B.A.  2000.  Management of Montana’s amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species.  Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1.  Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana.  161 p.
    • Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath.  2004.  Amphibians and reptiles of Montana.  Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.

Food Habits
In winter uses cambium, phloem, and foliage of woody shrubs and trees - ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, perhaps spruce and fir. In spring and summer uses reproducing parts and foliage of aspen, forbs, grasses, sedges and succulent wetland vegetation (Dodge 1982)

Ecology
Has a tendency to return to familiar areas and trees. Predators include man, Fisher, Marten, American Mink, Wolverine, Mountain Lion, Canada Lynx, and Bobcat. Solitary most of year, but may den communally in winter.

Reproductive Characteristics
May be polyestrous. Parturition occurs in late April or early May, some births as late as August. Pups can eat solid food within a week, but generally remain with female throughout the summer (Dodge 1982).

References
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View WorldCat Record   View Online Publication
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    • [PRESI] Powder River Eagle Studies Incorporated. 1998b. Spring Creek Mine 1997 wildlife monitoring studies. Powder River Eagle Studies Incorporated. Gillete, WY.
    • Bauer, Delane, 2002, 2002 Four Seasons Wildlife Study. Savage Mine Report, Richland County, Montana.
    • Beak Consultants, Inc., Portland, OR., 1983, Wildlife. January 1983. In Stillwater Project Environmental Studies. Addendum A, Wildlife. Vol. I. Tech. Report No. 7. 1982.
    • Butts, Thomas W., Western Technology and Eng., Helena, MT., 1993, Continental Lime Indian Creek Mine, Townsend, MT. 1993 Life of Mine Wildlife Reconnaissance. June 1993. In Life-of-Mine Amendment. Continental Lime, Inc., Indian Creek Mine & Plant. Vol. 2. October 13, 1992.
    • Camp Dresser & McKee, Inc., Wheat Ridge, CO., 1981, Anaconda Stillwater Project 6-month environmental baseline report. CDM Project No. 3139. Vol. I Appendix. Jan. 15, 1981.
    • Chapman, J. A., and G. A. Feldhamer, editors. 1982. Wild mammals of North America: biology, management, and economics. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
    • Costello, D. F. 1966. The world of the porcupine. N.Y. 157 pp.
    • Craig, E. H., and B. L. Keller. 1986. Movements and home range of porcupine, ERETHIZON DORSATUM, in Idaho shrub desert. Can. Field-Nat. 100:167-173.
    • Douglass, Richard J., DMI Ecological Research, Butte, MT., 1995, Small animals potentially living in the proposed Cottonwood Mining Area. August 1995. In Gem River Corporation Application for Operating Permit and Plan of Operations. Marc I Mine, Dry Cottonwood Creek, Deer Lodge County, Montana. Vol. 2, Apps. App. L. No date.
    • ECON, Inc. (Ecological Consulting Service), Helena, MT., 1976, Colstrip 10 x 20 Area wildlife and wildlife habitat annual monitoring report, 1976. Proj. 135-85-A. December 31, 1976.
    • Econ, Inc. (Ecological Consulting Service), Helena, MT., 1977, 1977 wildlife and wildlife habitat monitoring study, Peabody Coal Company Big Sky Mine. Proj. 161-85-A. November 30, 1977.
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    • ECON, Inc. (Ecological Consulting Service), Helena, MT., 1979, Annual wildllife report of the Colstrip Area for 1979, including a special raptor research study. Proj. 216-85-A. March 1, 1980.
    • ECON, Inc. (Ecological Consulting Service), Helena, MT., 1979, Area B four-section wildlife report. August 3, 1979.
    • Econ, Inc., Helena, MT., 1978, Peabody Coal Company Big Sky Mine, Rosebud County, MT. Wildlife and wildlife habitat monitoring study. Proj. 190-85-A. December 31, 1978.
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    • Fjell, Alan K., 1986, Peabody Coal Company Big Sky Mine, Rosebud County, MT. Wildlife monitoring report: 1985 field season. March 1986.
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    • Fjell, Alan K., and Brian R. Mahan., 1983, Peabody Coal Company Big Sky Mine, Rosebud County, MT. Wildlife monitoring report: 1982 field season. May 1983.
    • Fjell, Alan K., and Brian R. Mahan., 1985, Peabody Coal Company Big Sky Mine, Rosebud County, MT. Wildlife monitoring report: 1984 field season. February 1985.
    • Fjell, Alan K., and Brian R. Mahan., 1987, Big Sky Mine, Rosebud County, MT. Wildlife monitoring report: 1986 field season. April 1987.
    • Foresman, K. R. 2001. The wild mammals of Montana. American Society of Mammologists, Special Publication Number 12. Lawrence, KS. 278 p.
    • Gabrielson, I.N. 1928. Notes on the habits and behavior of the porcupine in Oregon. J. Mammal. 9: 33-38.
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    • Storm, Gerald L. 1963. Porcupine damage in ponderosa pine stands of western Montana. M.S. Thesis, University of Montana, Missoula. 149 pp.
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Citation for data on this website:
Porcupine — Erethizon dorsatum.  Montana Field Guide.  Montana Natural Heritage Program and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.  Retrieved on September 30, 2014, from http://FieldGuide.mt.gov/speciesDetail.aspx?elcode=AMAFJ01010
 
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