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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Quill Pigs Moving South?

Quill Pigs moving south?

In the 1980’s Hugh Pine, the porcupine character in Janwillem Van De Wetering’s children’s books, educated other less-intelligent animals about the danger of crossing roads.   Unfortunately, not all quill pigs were listening as Hugh gave his advice because one of the prickly fellows was hit as he crossed I-69.  But perhaps its existence on the side of the highway tells us that porcupines are headed south.  This is the fourth porcupine reported to the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy in the past couple of years.  Michigan porcupines are common in forests in the middle of the Lower Peninsula. 

In June of 2009, Bill Botti, long-time friend of the Conservancy and Executive Director of the Michigan Forest Association, found two porcupines near his tree farm in Eaton County (southwest of Lansing).  That’s about 80 miles farther south than they are usually found.  Later that month a porcupine was found central Saginaw County.  Porcupines are common in the forests north of a line from Muskegon to Standish, but don’t wander much from their home ranges.  Even though, these four animals were found dead, on the side of the road, it may mean that the Michigan quill pigs are moving south.  The move south could be linked to the regrowth of forests in Southern Michigan.  Other animals gradually moving south are Bears and bobcats.

Something I just learned is that porcupines like salt licks.  They are attracted to areas where salt is, roads where salt is used to melt ice, natural plants with a salty taste and materials that have been coated with salty sweat. 

Let’s all learn from Hugh! 

 Has anyone else seen a porcupines in southern Michigan?  Help us keep our Eye On Wildlife!  You be the scientist! 

If you have found porcupines or other wildlife outside their traditional ranges, dead or alive, please contact the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy by email, wildlife@miwildlife.org or by phone at (517-641-7677). 

General Information about the porcupine

  • The name porcupine comes from the French words, porc espin (spined pig).  Americans commonly called this animal the quill pig.
  • The porcupine can weigh between 12-35 lbs and come in the colors of brown, grey and even white.  They live in forests, deserts, hillsides and trees. 
  • Known for being a nocturnal rodent, they sometimes forage for food during the day.  Porcupines are herbivores and eat things like leaves, herbs, twigs, green plants and bark.  They will climb trees to eat these foods.  Salt licks are also popular places to find porcupines. 
  • Quills are removed when the body of the porcupine is shaken or if an animal or person has physical contact with them.  They are released and fall out.  However new quills will replace those that are lost. 
  • In Kenya they are considered a delicacy and frequently eaten.  Their quills and guardhairs are used to make clothing and materials. 
  • Porcupines once held the record for being the longest-living rodent.  They were just recently replaced by the Naked Mole Rat.

Keep it wild!

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