North American Porcupines and Their Hearing (How Good is It)

Surviving can be tricky when you’re the size of a cat and live in a forest full of hungry predators. From hunters and larger animals, there are a lot of things that can hurt you if you are not careful. That is why animals such as porcupines rely on their senses to stay one step ahead of trouble.

We all know about porcupines’ quills and their dangers, but that is just one tool in their arsenal. Aside from their quills, porcupines are highly dependent on their five senses. While porcupines have notoriously bad eyesight, they make up for this by having a strong sense of hearing. 

Join us in Floofmania as we dive into the North American porcupine’s sense of hearing and how it helps them in the forest.

Do Porcupines Have Effective Hearing?

Porcupines are known to have excellent hearing in order to make up for their poor sense of sight, which means they struggle to see objects not right in front of them and even need help making out stationary obstacles. To compensate for that deficiency, porcupines make use of more powerful senses, like their hearing

In particular, porcupines make use of their sense of smell and hearing. These senses are how porcupines interact with the environment and prevent them from running right into danger.

How Do Porcupines Use Their Hearing?

Like other animals, porcupines use their hearing in different ways to interact with their surroundings. The main ways they use their hearing are:

  • Porcupines use their hearing to sense other animals nearby.
  • Their hearing allows porcupines to interact with each other.
Very fluffy North American porcupine walking towards the camera on soil streqn with withered leaves.

Can Porcupines Hear A Threat From Far Away?

One of the biggest advantages of excellent hearing is that it allows porcupines to sense approaching animals before they get too close. Since they will have a hard time seeing them coming, their best option is to keep their ears open and constantly listen for any dangers.

Porcupines move slowly along the forest floor but keep their ears ready. They can make out even soft noises like rustling leaves or faint footsteps. When they hear something approaching, it allows the porcupines to prepare themselves. These few moments are crucial to survival for slow-moving and near-sighted animals like porcupines.

They can prepare by either running away and seeking shelter or using their quills to try and defend themselves.

Do Porcupines Communicate With Sound?

Aside from defending against enemies, our quilled friends use their ears for peaceful purposes, such as interacting. Excellent hearing means they can pick up and send signals to one another.

Aside from being able to produce varied vocalizations, to be able to communicate means having a good sense of hearing to listen to sounds and signals.

While porcupines are not social animals, preferring to live and hunt alone, they are not territorial either. These spikey mammals will happily interact with members of their species if they run into each other.

North American porcupine sitting on its behind on the ground with pebbles and small flowers around it.

When they do interact, porcupines usually communicate through sounds. They use various vocal queues like grunts, cries, teeth clattering, and shrieks, which are normally high-pitched and can sound like a baby’s sounds. 

With so many different noises, porcupines are able to communicate a lot of different things; for example, teeth chattering is usually done when a porcupine is in distress. They typically use it as a warning against predators. They made these sounds to try and get them to back off.

Sometimes, when they are excited during mating, the male and female porcupines release a high-pitched shriek that some people even compare to sirens.

On the other hand, porcupine parents use grunts to communicate with their cubs. If they become separated, parents and cubs make a grunting sound to let the others know where they are.

When porcupines let out a clicking sound with their teeth, that is usually a sign of danger, as these little guys use that sound to warn each other that something is coming. Once again, this is an essential tool for parents with their cubs as it allows them to alert each other.

Fact: Porcupines don’t just make noise with their mouth. When they are defending themselves, they may also stamp their feet to try and intimidate their rivals.

Do Porcupines Have Ears?

Although it can be hard to tell, porcupines have a set of ears along the sides of their head. These ears are often hidden behind their quills, and most porcupines won’t let you get close enough to check. 

If you could inspect the ears of our furry friends, you would find a set of small, round ears tucked under their quills. This small size has made researching porcupines difficult, as scientists can not correctly place ear tags on them without getting poked by their quills.

What Do Porcupine Ears Look Like?

Although their hearing is excellent, the actual ears of porcupines are pretty small. They are tucked behind their eyes and buried beneath a forest of quills. Underneath is a small circular-shaped ear with a helix wrapping around them. These are titled upwards at a slight angle.

Fact: Some porcupines species, such as the African Crested Porcupines, have ears that resemble those of humans. These are relatively big and have an earlobe and helix, though, like their American cousins, these can be difficult to spot from a distance.

North American porcupine eating from a bush while sitting on a rocky surface.

Author: Quade Ong

Hello there, my name is Quade. I have been a writer for three years but an animal lover for over two decades. I grew up in one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, which has given me the blessing of seeing all sorts of beautiful animals. Now I strive to learn not just about the animals I am from, but those all over the world!

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