North American Porcupine - Erethizon dorsatum
State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Although commonly observed and presumably secure in eastern Montana, this species has undergone significant and possibly catastrophic declines in conifer forests west of the Continental Divide. The cause of these declines is unknown, and there is considerable uncertainty what effect this will have on the persistence of the species within this region of the state.
North American 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.
Western Hemisphere Range
Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations:
(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version)
Map Help and Descriptions
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
Non-migratory. However, in mountainous areas seasonal altitudinal migration may occur.
Common in montane forests of western Montana, also occurs in brushy badlands, sagebrush semi-desert and along 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 (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
- 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 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
- Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
- Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
- 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 listed as associated with 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 listed as 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.
Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific 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 assignment of common versus occasional association.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.
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: mtnhp.org/requests
) 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.
- 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.
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- Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Human Land Use
Recently Disturbed or Modified
Shrubland, Steppe and Savanna Systems
Wetland and Riparian Systems
- Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems
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)
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.
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).
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
- Burt, W.H. and R.P. Grossenheider. 1964. A field guide to the mammals. Houghton Mifflin Co.
- Dodge, W.E. 1982. Porcupine. In: Chapman, J.A. and G.A. Feldhamer (eds), Wild mammals of North America, Pp. 355-366. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 1147 pp.
- Foresman, K.R. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
- Hoffmann, R.S. and D.L. Pattie. 1968. A guide to Montana mammals: identification, habitat, distribution, and abundance. Missoula, MT: University of Montana. 133 p.
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
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- Additional Sources of Information Related to "Mammals"