Tough Love (How Porcupines Mate)
One of Alaska’s most feared creatures can also be downright adorable. And that’s what your morning baby is all about, because adorableness = productivity surge. It’s true. If you’ve got the day off from work today, this guy could mean an extra load of laundry, or a loaf of homemade bread, or just getting out of your pajamas.
And lucky you, because it’s a holiday, you’ll get an extra bonus: Everything you never wanted to know about how baby porcupines are made. You might want to make sure you’ve had your OJ first, because the knowledge of the bizarre and complicated mating ritual of the porcupine could take a lot out of you.
The female porcupine is only fertile for 8 – 12 hours per year, so things have to happen fast. The female first checks out the potential male suitor by rubbing noses. If he passes the nose-rubbing test, it’s on to step two. To get her in the mood, the male stands on his hind legs and becomes a specialized high-pressure urine cannon, soaking the female. If he fails this test (which I’m not sure how you actually pass), she’s off to find another mate. If she likes it, the female will then stand on her head and flip her tail over revealing the critical spine-free mating zone. The male has 2-5 minutes to do his thing. The mating is repeated until the male is unable to continue because of sexual exhaustion. If the coupling is successful, there will be baby porcupines 7 months later. And as for the birthing process? The quills of a newborn porcupine don’t become hard and sharp until about a half hour after birth, fortunately for mom.
Porcupine females have a rare advantage in the mating world. They cannot be forced to copulate against their will. One swipe of the tail to the eager nether regions of the male porcupine, and the bad man goes away. Problem solved. The female porcupine, unlike humans, does have a way of “shutting that whole thing down.”