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Porcupettes Being Born

5-20-14 porcupine IMG_3143This 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.

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9 responses

  1. Bob Morse

    “Will nurse from its mother for the next two months…..”
    “….the porcupine’s mother provides care…..for a week or two before leaving it to fend for itself.”

    I’m confused. How can both be true?

    May 20, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    • As well you should be! I did a poor job of describing the exact details and defining “care.” Another reader, Catherine Fisher, provided the following information — more thorough and accurate than mine!

      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.”

      May 20, 2014 at 3:21 pm

  2. Adorable.

    May 20, 2014 at 12:28 pm

  3. Catherine Fisher

    Hi Mary. The two weeks of maternal care you’ve described seems a little low. 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.”

    May 20, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    • Hi Catherine,
      Thanks very much. I did a poor job of describing the relationship of mother and young…by not “caring” for her young, I meant exactly what you said — leaving the offspring while she (the mother) goes off to feed, but returning to nurse. I used Godin as my reference for length of lactation — should have used Roze! Many thanks.

      May 20, 2014 at 3:19 pm

      • Catherine Fisher

        Hi Mary,
        I use your book and website so often as a resource for nature walks with elementary school children, that it’s a pleasure to be able to throw an assist your way!
        Thank you for providing such a wealth of information.

        May 20, 2014 at 11:43 pm

  4. Bob Morse

    Thank you for the prompt followup. We thoroughly enjoy your daily updates.

    May 20, 2014 at 4:00 pm

  5. Elizabeth Janeway

    Dear Mary Holland, BUT you just wrote that the baby porcupine nurses from its mother for two MONTHS! And added the mother cares for it for one or two WEEKS. I am confused. Betsy

    Elizabeth Janeway ecjway1@aol.com

    May 22, 2014 at 2:31 am

    • Hi Jane,
      I mistakenly said two months (see comment above from Catherine Fisher), when it is actually four or more that the mother nurses her young, leaving it in a sheltered spot while it (the mother)feeds. My source, Godin’s Wild Mammals of New England, is outdated – should have consulted Roze’s book, which is excellent. Glad readers like you keep me on my toes! Sorry for the confusion!

      May 22, 2014 at 11:44 am

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