Other Mammals - Sounds Wild
Porcupines Mate


Download Episode: Porcupines Mate (MP3 file 2,186 kB)


A big porcupine waddles along the shoulder of the highway on a September evening, and fortunately a passing driver gives him a wide berth as she drives by. It's the fall mating season for porcupines, and males like this are on the move, looking for receptive females. People see porcupines more often in the fall because a male may expand his home range (of six to 12 acres) as much as five times in mating season. A female is in estrus just once a year, for about 12 hours. That's a narrow window, but males find them using their sense of smell. Females signal with a scent on their bodies and in their urine, and males track them down. If more than one male is interested in the same female, they will fight for the opportunity to mate.

Porcupines have an extremely long pregnancy, about seven months, the longest of any rodent. Moms give birth to just a single baby in the spring, called a porcupette. The quills are not a problem for the mother at birth as the porcupette is encased in a little sack known as a caul. The porcupette's quills are also soft and harden within an hour. The porcupette stays with its mother throughout its first summer, wandering off in the fall by the time she's ready to mate again.