Contrary to popular belief, porcupines cannot shoot its quills at a distance. When the porcupine is ready to strike, it will flex its tail, fanning its quills out, thrashing its tail back and forth. The shaking motion releases their quills which are located at their sides, back and legs. The quills are easily detached upon contact and are connected to the porcupine’s hind muscles. The microscopic barbs on the tip of the quills drive deeper into the victim’s flesh once lodged. The shortest quills are more deadly as they tend to get deeper into the flesh to hit vital parts.
Porcupine quills are longest on the buttocks and shortest on the cheeks. Quills are hollow with stiff hairs and a barbed tip. Each quill can measure up to 3 inches in length. The porcupine has other types of hairs such as the underfur and guard hair. The underfur is the finest coat and keeps the porcupine well-insulated. The guard hairs are longer and coarser hairs (about 4 inches) that grows over the underfur. It serves as protective layer for the back and tail.
The crested porcupine is found in Italy and North Africa. It has a special type of quill that rattles when the porcupines vibrates them. The porcupine warns its predators that it will launch its quills if it’s provoked further. Another way a porcupine warns an approaching threat is to chatter its teeth repeatedly to produce an offending odor. Similar to the skunk’s black/white stripes, the porcupine’s stark black and white pattern is a warning sign to their predators. Most predators avoid the dangerous porcupine but the American Fisher has learnt to deal with the quills by flipping them over to attack their faces or belly.
Other predators of the porcupine include the wolverine, bobcat and puma.