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Although there are numerous different species of porcupines in existence, only one roams throughout the United States, according to the National Geographic. That species is the North American porcupine ( Erethizon dorsatum), which is also frequently referred to as the common porcupine. These spiny and robust rodents also often live on Canadian soil, as well.
About North American Porcupines
North American porcupines are some of the biggest rodents that come from North America, beaten out in size solely by beavers, according to the Woodland Park Zoo. The general coat coloration for North American porcupines is black or deep brown. These New World porcupines usually weigh between 12 and 35 pounds, with full body lengths of between 25 and 36 inches. Females usually weigh a little less than the males. North American porcupines are herbivores that feed a lot on herbs, grasses, wood, tree bark, foliage, buds and apples.
Geography of the North American Porcupine
North American porcupines, as their names convey, live exclusively in North America -- in the United States, Canada and Mexico. In the United States, they roam throughout both western and northern regions. These yellowish-brown creatures also reside in the northeast -- think Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New York -- although in significantly smaller numbers. Alaska is also home to a sizable North American porcupine population.
Natural Habitat of the North American Porcupine
As far as habitat goes, North American porcupines are very adaptable animals. Some typical living environments for these solitary porcupines are desert shrublands, chaparral, mountains, grasslands, woodlands, sagebrush, swamps, tundra and thick forests -- whether deciduous, coniferous or mixed. In the cold winter months, North American porcupines typically hide away in dens -- preferably amidst rocks, but also occasionally up in trees.
Trees or the Ground
Depending on what specific area of North America a porcupine lives in, he may spend most of his time up in trees or on the ground. For example, porcupines that reside in the northeast usually spend most of their time in trees. In the northwestern region of the United States, however, they tend to keep their bodies planted squarely on terra firma.
- Maryland Department of Natural Resources: North American Porcupine
- Woodland Park Zoo: Porcupine
- Animal Diversity Web: Erethizon Dorsatum
- National Geographic: Porcupine
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History: North American Porcupine
- The Alaska Zoo: North American Porcupine
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Erethizon Dorsatum
- Natural History Museum: North American Porcupine
- Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images