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Title: Distribution of the North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) in northern California

Author: Appel, Cara L.; Zielinski, Bill; Schlexer, Fredrick V; Callas, Richard; Bean, William T.;

Date: 2017

Source: Western Wildlife

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: The North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) is one of the most widely distributed mammals in North America, but recent reports have suggested declines in parts of its range in the West. In California, little is known about the historical or current status of the porcupine, and maps of its distribution conflict considerably. Nevertheless, the species is of interest to natural resource managers. For much of the 1900s, foresters and others primarily treated porcupines as pests because of the undesirable damage they inflict feeding on trees and gnawing on manmade items in search of salt. More recently, porcupines have been recognized for their role in promoting forest structure and diversity, and as potential prey for the Fisher (Pekania pennanti). We collected records of porcupine occurrence in the northern part of California since the beginning of the 20th Century, relying on government and private databases, reports from the public, and other sources. These records confirm that porcupines may occur in most major regions and habitat types across northern California, in contrast to many published range maps. The contemporary distribution of porcupines in the state most closely resembles the California Wildlife Habitat Relationships System (CWHR) range map, which is based on projections of suitable habitat. We are unable to offer deeper insight into trends of abundance and possible changes in distribution because these records are likely spatiotemporally correlated with observer effort. This work is a first step and we recommend that a broader statewide effort be conducted to better understand the distribution, abundance, and ecology of North American Porcupines in California.

Keywords: citizen science, generalist, herbivore, historical, mammals, observations, range map

Publication Notes:

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Appel, Cara L.; Zielinski, William J.; Schlexer, Fredrick V.; Callas, Richard; Bean, William T. 2017. Distribution of the North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) in northern California. Western Wildlife. 4: 17–28.


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