Uldis Roze, who has spent a lifetime studying porcupines, describes a lactation period of, on average, 127 days – or slightly more than four months. While it is true that, from birth on, mom leaves her youngster alone during the day while she rests nearby, she nurses the the porcupette at night and, as for its first six weeks her youngster is too weak to travel far and is unable to climb, she never travels far . Once the porcupette is strong enough to travel and climb, it spends three months following mom and learning where food trees are located. After three months, mother porcupines and porcupettes begin to spend occasional evenings apart, and by December, separation is complete, leaving the young porcupines to, as Roze describes it, “set out energetically to survive the biggest test of their lives: their first winter alone.”
This newborn porcupine is about a foot long from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail, weighs roughly a pound and has quills about one-inch long. It will nurse from its mother for the next two months, but within two weeks will be feeding on vegetation as well. Because its offspring is precocial (capable of traveling and feeding on its own soon after birth), the porcupine’s mother provides care for her one offspring only for a week or two before leaving it to fend for itself.
Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.