The Lindsay Wildlife Experience at Larkey Park in Walnut Creek, California has a lot of amazing animals (including a bald eagle). I definitely encourage you to visit the museum, but if you stop by on select mornings (check out their website or social media), you can also see some of their animal ambassadors for free on the patio outside the museum.
Case in point, the museum’s amazing rescue porcupine, who showed off for visitors on a recent weekend. Despite their large size–and the fact that this porcupine is covered in 30,000+ needle sharp quills–porcupines apparently love to climb trees.
It’s hilarious to watch a porcupine scale a tree and carefully cling to the trunk. And it was also amusing to learn, as you can see in this video, that they descend “booty first”.
Quills: A Porcupine’s Protective Armor
Porcupines have a large number of quills covering their body, which are essentially modified hairs made of keratin – the same substance that makes up human nails. These quills are long, sharp, and can reach up to 12 inches in length in some species.
The primary purpose of these quills is to protect the porcupine from predators. When threatened, a porcupine will raise its quills (a reaction triggered by their muscles), making them more visible and intimidating to potential attackers.
Moreover, the quills are covered in microscopic barbs that hook onto the predator’s skin if contact is made, causing immense pain and making it difficult for the predator to remove them.
The Porcupine’s Unique Climbing Technique
At a recent animal ambassador show at the Lindsay Wildlife Experience, the museum’s rescued porcupine demonstrated how these unique critters climb down a tree–and it certainly wasn’t like a squirrel! While squirrels descend trees headfirst, porcupines use a different technique: they go down “booty” first, as the Lindsday staff member explained.
This behavior is actually because a significant number of quills are concentrated around the porcupine’s lower back and hindquarters. By climbing down a tree rump first, they are strategically protecting themselves from predators that might see this as an opportunity to attack.
Let’s imagine, for a moment, that the porcupine is climbing down a tree, and animal keeper Erin, who was in the video, plays the role of a bobcat. If Erin were to try and grab the descending porcupine, she would be met with a face full of quills, effectively discouraging the would-be predator from its initial intentions.
Porcupines are extraordinary animals, and their quills play a significant role in their survival. These quills, which are both visually intimidating and physically harmful to predators, act as an armor defense mechanism against various threats.
Furthermore, porcupines have adapted their behavior to maximize the use of their quills, as exemplified by their distinct booty-first tree climbing technique. To visit a real porcupine and lots of other animals, stop by the Lindsday Wildlife Experience.
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- Porcupines have a lot of quills on their booty.
- Squirrels climb down trees face first, while porcupines climb down booty first.
- If an animal keeper was a bobcat and tried to grab a porcupine climbing down a tree, they would get a face full of quills.