If you live in an area with a porcupine population, then you may already be aware of how much trouble they can cause around your home. Porcupines may be small, but they can cause a lot of harm to your yard, pets, and your family.
There are many different ways to deal with porcupines. One rule to remember is to never under any circumstances touch a porcupine. Even excellent gloves are usually not enough to protect your hands.
The Porcupine Life Cycle
Porcupines give birth to one live offspring per year after a seven-month gestation time, so they don’t reproduce with the rapidity of a lot of other rodents.
Porcupines are normally nocturnal creatures. Seeing a porcupine during the day is odd and sometimes means they are sick or have run out of their den for some reason. If the weather is particularly unpleasant a porcupine may not venture forth for several days unless necessary. Since porcupines do not hibernate, they can be a nuisance year round.
All porcupines are particularly attracted to vegetable gardens, fruit trees, etc. Their favorite foods are the soft inner layer of tree bark and root crops. Their affinity for bark is the reason they are most often found in forested areas. Porcupines like to create their dens in rocky places but will sleep in a tree if this is not available. One of the major signs that a porcupine is living in a hole is a pile of feces at the entrance.
Porcupines can cause damage to a lot of things around any home or farm. Here are some of the things you may have around that they are particularly attracted to.
This is not just limited to table salt. Anything that has salt on it is going to be attractive. If you have a barn and leave a horse saddle out you may come back to find that it has been gnawed on because of the salt that is in horse sweat. Even old sweaty clothes could be attractive if they are anywhere a porcupine might be able to access them. If you live in an area where the roads get salted in the winter time, then your tires or the undercarriage of your vehicle is at risk for damage.
Out Buildings and Other Wooden Structures or Items
Since porcupines feed on tree bark, they are attracted to any building made of wood. Gnawing on structures can result in a lot of damage that can be difficult to fix. Tool handles, boat oars, and other wooden objects are all at risk as well.
Gardens and Landscaping
To a porcupine, your rose garden, berry patch, or vegetable garden, is simply irresistible. Small trees and shrubs cannot withstand as much damage as larger trees. Significant gnawing on a larger tree may be repaired over time. There are products you can apply to damaged trees that seal the outer bark to prevent further damage and infection.
Protecting Pets and Livestock
Dogs and cats are usually the most likely to experience porcupine quills up close and personal. Cattle and other livestock can develop major infections if quills are not removed properly. Removing quills often require an animal to be sedated during the procedure. Do not try to remove quills yourself.
A veterinarian can make sure to not break off quills and will take all necessary steps to prevent infection. A fence or other barriers around livestock and keeping pets inside or in a well-fenced yard at night can prevent some porcupine issues.
A live trap is considered a very humane method of getting rid of porcupines. A trap is inexpensive and can be purchased at any Tractor Supply, on Amazon, or a local hardware or farmer’s supply store. When setting a trap always wear gloves to prevent your scent from getting on the trap. Usually, a piece of something tasty is put into the trap to offer the porcupine. When the porcupine goes into the trap the door drops, and it is caught.
Usually, if you call your local animal control department they will either get the porcupine and relocate it or they will tell you where you can drop it off at. Sometimes it is okay to release a porcupine at some state parks and other areas. If you choose to go the live trap route, then it is important to check your trap at least once a day. If it is very hot out, you may even put some water in the live trap just in case you don’t check it often enough.
It is crucial to plan out trapping a porcupine. Do not be tempted to buy a trap that is too small to accommodate them. It is awfully hard and dangerous to pick up a trap or cage that has quills protruding from it. Also, make sure to keep any pets or children well away from a trapped porcupine.
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Build or Improve Fences
A good fence is highly effective in preventing porcupines from entering your space. They can squeeze through a fairly small opening, so if you have an existing fence they are getting through, you can put a wire with a smaller weave on the bottom of the fence. Porcupines are not jumpers, so it doesn’t have to be that tall. If you start to have problems with them digging in your yard, then wire or boards on the ground near the fence can help prevent digging. Chicken wire is inexpensive and works well. Since fencing can add up, if you have a larger property you may just want to fence a smaller space around your home, and/or kids play area.
Call a Pest Control Service
If you are having a big problem and are simply not comfortable dealing with the issue yourself, then you can call a pest control service that has the necessary experience. These services can cost quite a bit if you have to make many calls so this is something to be aware of. This is why a lot of people choose to trap and call animal control instead. A pest control service can also evaluate your property and suggest methods you can use to keep porcupines away. They may be able to see things around your property that are encouraging them, that you don’t have the knowledge to realize are part of the problem.
Pepper Spray on Plants and Trees
Using hot sauce or capsaicin on plants and trees can prevent porcupine damage and help deter them from your yard entirely. Be careful when mixing up a spray like this and when you are applying it. A proper face mask, eye protection, gloves, etc. are highly recommended. If you are spraying garden plants and fruits you will be eating, take extra precautions to wash them well before consuming.
You can make your pepper spray or buy a concentrate from a garden shop or failing that an online retailer. If you get a lot of rain, you will need to reapply the spray. Each concentrate is a bit different so just be careful not to exceed the recommended amount even though it is an all natural spray solution.
Note: We recommend Havahart Critter Ridder.
Coyote or fox scent applied around your yard can help keep porcupines away, but it must be applied often. Some people claim that porcupines often catch on to the fact that there is no real predators around and start coming back. Any store with a hunting supply section carries these types of scents, or you can order them fairly inexpensively. Like any spray, if you get a lot of rain or other weather you may need to reapply right away to extend your protection.
There are products that emit an ultrasonic noise that is supposed to repel things like porcupines. The results are here and there. This means that there are plenty of people that say this doesn’t work, or it only works for so long. If you try out this method, you might want to get one that has a good money back guarantee just in case it doesn’t work for you.
While you do not want your dog getting into a fight with a porcupine, the presence of a dog barking on a regular basis offers a big deterrent to porcupines. Some people never have porcupine problems after getting a good fence around their property and a good dog to patrol it daily. At least some of the deterrent effect is based on scent as well.
Even smaller dogs can help keep porcupines from passing through, but you want to make sure they have no way of squirming out because smaller dogs can be more easily injured or even killed by an adult porcupine.
If you are on your property, and it is not prohibited, you can use a small caliber rifle or handgun to shoot a porcupine. Keep in mind that this means you are going to have to dispose of the remains. If you are experiencing a big problem with porcupines, you might consider this. If you are a farmer, porcupines can cost you a lot of money in lost productivity. Also, if you have a porcupine that is abnormally aggressive, then this approach might be needed.
Contacting Fish & Game
If you don’t get much help from animal control relocating your porcupine, you can contact your local Fish & Game Office for advice. They help with all kinds of animal relocations. To find your closest office go to your local Fish & Game website.
Porcupines Can Lead to Other Pests
Having porcupines in your area can bring in other pests that prey on porcupines. While you might be thinking that anything that gets rid of porcupines is a positive thing, it doesn’t sound so great when you realize that this can mean coyotes, foxes, bobcats, bears, and more. This means that dealing with a smaller animal problem as soon as possible is best if you don’t want future problems.
Determining Cost of Prevention and Removal
The cost of getting your porcupine problem under control is going to vary a lot based on your unique situation. The odd porcupine wandering in is a lot different then discovering several dens near your home. Trapping doesn’t cost much but can take up some of your time when you have to relocate it or be there to talk to an animal control officer.
A pest control specialist can take care of the whole problem for you but is going to be more expensive. This type of service can vary according to where you live. If you are older or live alone, you may need to call in some professional help.
One way to justify the cost of hiring a specialist is to consider the cost of ignoring the problem. One visit to the hospital or veterinarian is going to cost as much or more than the fee your pest control specialist is going to charge. This isn’t counting lost work time while recovering.
Disposing of a Dead Porcupine
If you have a dead porcupine on your hands, then you have to be very careful how you dispose of them, so you don’t get quills embedded in yourself. Using a shovel or similar to pick them up is the only way to go. You may be allowed to dispose of carcasses at your local landfill but make sure to check before doing so.
If you have to bury it, then dig a substantial hole and coat it with lime on the bottom, place the porcupine in the hole and then cover with more lime followed by dirt. The key is to make sure you bury it deep enough that other animals don’t dig up the carcass and get quills. The lime speeds up the decomposition process a lot and prevents odors.