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The woodland creature known as the porcupine weighs 15-20 pounds. This primarily nocturnal animal gets its name from the Latin word for pig and the French word for thorn. These “prickly pigs” have 30,000 quills each are a mass of tiny overlapping barbs. When threatened these rodents first try to escape and if that doesn’t work---it tucks its vulnerable little head, turn its back and Whamo! When touched the quills dislodge into an attackers warm flesh and the barbs on the quills flare out working against the muscle to embed deeper into the flesh. Though not poisonous, the quills may kill. Animals with quills in the mouth can die of starvation or from a subsequent infection. The 1 – 2.5 inch thorns have been found in everything from polar bears to trout fish.


Porcupines are not known to be lovable or amiable. They don’t hang out in colonies like other rodents do. They detached from their mother and self-sufficient just a few months after birth. It’s a small wonder that their peculiarities don’t render them extinct. In fact they populate North American forest areas rather well, some stabs and scratches along the way notwithstanding.


How do porcupines survive and even thrive? How do they get past all the prickliness and go on? Well, actually they learn to dance. Seriously. They do a kind of two step to get along and we could all learn a lesson here. Called a “love dance” by some, porcupines will waddle on their hind feet to engender a better situation during mating. When disposed, they nuzzle noses and place their front paws on each other’s shoulders and sort of waltz a little. Each flattens their quills so to not hurt the other. They make it work. In wintertime a small group may even cluster together for warmth in what is termed a prickle. So there you have it, even the unlikely scenarios of intimacy, mating and fellowship can and do occur with such spiny a species.

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