Porcupine Poop: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Published: September 15, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/Carol Gray
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The porcupine is a large rodent and a member of the genus Erethizon and the family Erethizontidae. Known scientifically as the Erethizon dorsaum, there are at least 20 different species of porcupines and they are among the largest rodents in the animal kingdom. Like most other animals, porcupines have a digestive system that allows for fecal excretion, that is poop. In this article, we will be getting into details about porcupine poop including what it looks like and whether or not it is dangerous. Let’s get started.

What Does Porcupine Poop Look Like?

Porcupine Poop
During summer, porcupines mostly eat leaves from shrubs and herbs, which is why the color of their poop is brown to black.

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Porcupine poop mostly comes out in the form of separate pellets. The color of their poop varies depending on their diet which also varies depending on the time of the year. During summer, porcupines mostly feed on leaves from shrubs and herbs, which is why the color of their poop is brown to black during these times. However, once it is winter, they often feed on tree bark, particularly conifers, which makes their poop reddish-brown. Experts say reddish-brown is the most usual color. 

Thanks to their predominantly herbivorous diet, porcupine poop is devoid of any moisture or creaminess as it is often rough and hard. 

We must mention that some porcupine species have long, thin and segmented poops with curved edges and they usually measure about 2-3 inches long as opposed to 1inch pellet droppings in other species. This category of porcupine poop is shaped like a cashew and a pile of them looks like a plethora of small stones. 

Where Do Porcupines Poop?

Porcupine Nest
Porcupines poop at the entrance of their dens.

iStock.com/EAGiven

Porcupines are known to carry out their infamous pooping business right at the entrance of their dens. In case you were wondering, porcupines often make their dwelling in a hole at the base of a hollow tree. They do this with no sense of hygiene whatsoever and one would often find a pile of their droppings at the entrance of these holes with no seeming effort to clean them up. And to go along with this pile of poop is a line of urine. 

Does Porcupine Poop Smell?

Porcupine poop does have a smell. However, you’d have to get really close to the scat to actually smell something. And even then, you’d still have trouble coming up with anything tangible. Basically, if you are trying to figure out if a porcupine has been somewhere, you can’t rely entirely on the smell of their poop for your investigation because it is almost non-existent. 

However, while their poop isn’t massively malodorous, porcupines themselves have been observed to give off a smell similar to body odor in humans. This is because they secrete a chemical compound known as the R-delta- decalactone used to ward off predators, and mark territory or court potential mates. This odor is quite strong and comes from a part of their bodies known as the rosette. 

Do Porcupines Pee?

As is the case with other rodents, porcupines pee, thanks to their urinary system which includes a bladder, kidneys, and urethra. Porcupine urine is apparently more than just a mere excretion in the world of porcupines as it is a big part of their courting process. Male porcupines, in a bid to win a female over, would often walk towards the female and spray it with urine. As unbelievable as this sounds, it is true. If the female is interested, she would bend over and allow the “sprayer” to mount. If she is not, she would simply scream and/or shake off the pee and walk away. This behavior is most common in North American porcupines. Incredible, right?

What Do Porcupines Eat?

Porcupine
During winter, porcupines eat evergreen needles as well as inner bark from trees.

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The majority of porcupines have a majorly herbivorous diet and this is true for both Old World and New World porcupine species. Their diet varies depending on their areas and seasons of the year. During winter, porcupines eat evergreen needles as well as inner bark from trees. They often starve during this period because of the low nitrogen content they get from the tree bark. Once it is summer, however, their diet expands to include seeds, berries, grasses, nuts, leaves, twigs, peanuts, carrots, and carrions, to name just a few.  Porcupines may be found feeding on insects and small animals but this is a rarity. 

Is Porcupine Poop Harmful?

Contrary to what you may have thought, porcupines actually do not carry any communicable diseases that might pose health dangers to humans; not even in their poop. 

The primary way that they may cause harm to humans is through their quills, which may cause serious infections like rabies if they stay too long in human skin. The quills only come out upon contact with the porcupine and are best removed by a skilled veterinarian or doctor. 

Is There A Difference Between Porcupine Poop And Squirrel Poop?

squirrel poop
Squirrel droppings are a lot smaller than porcupine poop. 

iStock.com/Justin Smith

Porcupine poop and squirrel poop are similar in that they are both reddish-brown. However, squirrel droppings are a lot smaller than porcupine poop. 

Is There A Difference Between Porcupine Poop And Rabbit Poop?

rabbit poop
While rabbit poop has a round shape, porcupine poop is mostly oblong.

Daria Soroka/Shutterstock.com

The major difference between porcupine poop and rabbit poop lies in their shape. While rabbit poop has a round shape, porcupine poop is not perfectly round; it is mostly oblong.

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Sources
  1. Animal Hype, Available here: https://animalhype.com/facts/porcupine-scat-identification/#Color
  2. Research Gate, Available here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227058437_Warning_Odor_of_the_North_American_PorcupineErethizon_dorsatum
  3. North American Nature, Available here: https://northamericannature.com/are-porcupines-deadly/