Can a Porcupine Shoot Its Quills?

The porcupine has one of the best defense systems in nature-its quills.

baby porcupine quils

However, the porcupine does not shoot out these quills at an enemy, as many people think. Even though these quills are dangerous to an enemy, they are actually very loosely attached to the porcupine’s body and come off even at the slightest touch.

But they are capable of killing bears, lions, and wolves, even though the porcupine, itself, is no bigger than a cat. New quills grow to replace the lost ones.

An attacker may go after a porcupine with its mouth, but the sly little animal simply turns its back and lets its enemy’s teeth sink into its quills.

Since each quill is covered with tiny backward-pointing teeth, called barbs, the attacker finds itself with a mouthful and throatful of painful barbs. The attacker soon dies of starvation or from infections caused by the germs on the quills.

The only creature clever enough to defeat the porcupine is a kind of weasel, which sneaks up behind the porcupine. The weasel turns the porcupine over on its back and attacks its unprotected belly.

Would you believe, A porcupine’s quills are really long, sharp strands of hair that have grown together!

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

1 thought on “Can a Porcupine Shoot Its Quills?”

  1. Strange that I repetitivly see that a porcupine cannot throw its quills however on 2 occasions now I have seen a 10′ radious of quills that covered the ground – tree branches. I find it difficult to believe they all just fell out. On the first occasion I walked up to a dead porcupine in which I found quills all stuck into the ground and surrounding trees as if they were all thrown like darts. On the other occasion I shot one and had I been closer than 15′ I would have been covered with quills because they were stuck on the bottom siide of branches and all over the ground. I would agree with a statement that they may not be able to on command shoot them out however there does appear to be at a minimum a nerve reaction that actually throws them out like darts.

    These experts need to get their facts straight.

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