Porcupine Control

Trapping, Removal, Exclusion, & Porcupine Damage Prevention

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Porcupines

Porcupine eating habits destroy trees, foliage, and other vegetation.

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General Porcupine Facts

The porcupine is one of the world’s largest rodents, known for its spines or quills which are used to defend it from many predators. Their short legs cause them to walk with a waddle, and they are quite slow and awkward when they move about. Porcupines, or erethizon dorsatum, usually weight between 10 and 30 pounds. Adult porcupines, sometimes called “porkies” or “quill pigs,” are generally about 30 inches long. Each one has about 30,000 sharp, barbed quills covering its back. 

Like all rodents, porcupines’ teeth grow constantly; therefore, they have a great need to gnaw in order to keep their teeth ground to a short enough length.

Porcupines are edible and have been used by humans as emergency food. Native Americans use the quills for decoration, and the porcupine’s expensive hair is used for fly-fishing lures.

A porcupine’s eyesight is poor, but its keen senses of smell and hearing make up for that lack. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q-1. WHERE DO PORCUPINES LIVE?
Q-2. WHEN IS A PORCUPINE MOST ACTIVE?
Q-3. WHAT FOODS WILL A PORCUPINE EAT?
Q-4. WHY SHOULD I LEARN HOW TO GET RID OF PORCUPINES IN MY TREES OR YARD?
Q-5. WHY SHOULD I LEARN TO HOW TO GET RID OF PORCUPINES UNDER MY PORCH, HOUSE, CRAWLSPACE OR SHED?
Q-6. I HEARD A PORCUPINE CAN CARRY DISEASES. IS THAT TRUE?
Q-7. I HEARD INSECTS WILL LIVE ON A PORCUPINE. IS THAT TRUE?
Q-8. I WANT TO TRAP OR KILL A PORCUPINE MYSELF. IS THAT OK?
Q-9. HOW CAN UNITED WILDLIFE’S ANIMAL CONTROL HELP ME GET RID OF MY PORCUPINE PROBLEM?
Q-10. WHAT ARE UNITED WILDLIFE’S PAYMENT OPTIONS FOR PORCUPINE REMOVAL OR TO GET RID OF A PORCUPINE?
Q-11. WHAT SHOULD I DO AFTER UNITED WILDLIFE ANIMAL CONTROL EXTERMINATES OR RELOCATES A PORCUPINE?

Q-1. WHERE DO PORCUPINES LIVE?
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A. Porcupines are found throughout western and northern North America. They prefer to live in coniferous forest areas. Porcupines will wander from prairie river bottoms to deserts to alpine tundra.

When porcupines sleep during the day, they will often do so in caves, timber downfalls or rockslides. But porcupines can also choose your deck as a den site. Decks, sheds, crawlspaces and other structures provide comfortable shade and low temperatures during the day, in addition to shelter from predators.

Q-2. WHEN IS A PORCUPINE MOST ACTIVE?
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A. Despite the porcupine’s slow-moving habits, it will wander great distances when moving about. Porcupines are nocturnal, which means they are busy and awake during the night. The animals are active year-round; it is not common for porcupines to become dormant at any time of the year.

Autumn is the time of year for porcupines to mate. During this time of year, if a porcupine is in your yard you are likely to hear its moans, screams, grunts and barks. After a seven-month pregnancy, a mother porcupine will commonly have just one porcupine baby. The young are capable of eating vegetation on their own within just a week, but they will usually stay around the momma porcupine at least for a few more months. Porcupine babies are born fully developed, with eyes open and a full coat of quills.

Porcupines generally live up to nine years in the wild. In general, porcupines are antisocial and lead solitary lives. Sometimes the animals will group together for winter denning or food purposes. As many as 100 have been found together in large rock piles during the winter months.

Q-3. WHAT FOODS WILL A PORCUPINE EAT?
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A. The majority of the porcupine diet is made up of vegetation, and any animal matter they do eat is thought to be an unintended side effect of the manner in which they find their food.

Porcupines eat herbaceous plants, inner tree bark, leaves and twigs. Porcupines seem to prefer vegetation from aspen, willow, cottonwood and ponderosa pine. This is because this group of trees has thin, smooth bark, rather than thick, rough bark, which porcupines dislike.

Q-4. WHY SHOULD I LEARN HOW TO GET RID OF PORCUPINES IN MY TREES OR YARD?
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A. Porcupines destroy trees in yards and golf courses. Porcupine feeding can take a considerable toll on the plants and vegetation on your property. Cottonwoods of western river bottoms seem to take the biggest beating from porcupine chewing. Forest plantings, ornamentals, nursery plants and orchards will all be at risk if you allow a porcupine to stay and eat.

Porcupine tree damage is a huge concern. Their chewing can expose tree roots, girdle and clip trees—all great ways to kill a tree in your yard or golf course. Porcupines will also gnaw on the base of a tree and weaken it. Porcupines can climb trees, and they will clip branches from the tree to eat them. This behavior exposes the tree to disease which can lead to decay. It’s important to get on top of a porcupine pest problem before porcupines hit root systems and kill trees, shrubs and ornamentals. Winter is often the worst time for porcupine tree damage, as they have no smaller vegetation to eat. In the summer, porcupines will graze more on fruits, vegetables and succulent plants.

Items stored in sheds or yards are also at risk for porcupine damage. Porcupines will gnaw on plywood, grains, alfalfa and sweet corn. Expensive leather goods, such as tack equipment, may become chew toys for porcupines, too.

If porcupines are in your yard or golf course area, a plethora of other harmful animals will also be attracted to your property. Coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions and black bears all prey on porcupines and will enter your property and cause their own pest problems and dangers while in search of the animals.

Q-5. WHY SHOULD I LEARN TO HOW TO GET RID OF PORCUPINES UNDER MY PORCH, HOUSE, CRAWLSPACE OR SHED?
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A. Porcupines living under your deck, house or shed pose a danger to humans, children and house pets due to the presence of their sharp, barbed quills. These modified hairs are painful and time-consuming to remove, and it can be quite traumatic for a child or pet to become stuck with them. It is a myth that porcupines throw their quills, and they are not usually aggressive creatures, but they will defend their space if an unknowing human or pet enters it. If a porcupine gets involved in a confrontation, it will often chatter its teeth. Dogs, especially, seem to love to chase porcupines, and they never learn. Livestock, such as cows, horses and sheep will also nuzzle porcupines, and the quills can cause severe medical problems if the animal is not treated promptly.

Porcupines have been known to find their way into outbuildings such as sheds and boat houses where they will seriously damage beams and other support structures with their gnawing.

If porcupines should die near your home or business, the dead porcupine odor may emanate into the living quarters, causing headaches and nausea. Porcupines searching for food could easily fall down into a window well or mechanical box and, being unable to climb out, die there.

All these porcupine pest problems will affect the value of your property. It is difficult to sell a house on property that has an animal infestation and actually, it’s required by law that you fix the porcupine problem before you sell your home. Property value can decrease between five percent and ten percent due to animal problems.

Q-6. I HEARD A PORCUPINE CAN CARRY DISEASES. IS THAT TRUE?
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A. Though it is less common than in some other animals, porcupines can be carriers of rabies. Rabies, a virus, progressively paralyzes and can kill any mammal, including humans. Rabies is generally contracted through contact with an infected porcupine through biting. Though humans should avoid contact with any porcupine, if a porcupine seems especially fearless around humans, it could be infected. Call United Wildlife Animal Control immediately for professional porcupine removal.

Q-7. I HEARD INSECTS WILL LIVE ON A PORCUPINE. IS THAT TRUE?
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A. Porcupines are heavily infested with pests, which can spread into your home or business searching for hosts. Ticks, fleas and mites are all known carriers of disease.

Several cases of mites biting humans indoors have been reported.

Ticks are very mobile and have been known to crawl into buildings that porcupines are living in, and travel great distances to attach themselves to people.

If a porcupine brings fleas near your home, most likely the biting bug will hop onto your house pet’s back. Once inside, large flea populations can build up quickly. Fleas live on the outside of their hosts’ bodies and need to feed on blood in order to produce eggs.

A bug living on a porcupine on your property can become an infestation in your pantry or carpet in no time. One or two mites may stray from the porcupine den in your crawlspace or under your deck, and crawl along your kitchen table. But if the porcupine abandons its home for any reason, the whole caboodle of porcupine bugs will enter your home, looking for a new host. This is why it’s especially important to have our animal control experts remove porcupine dens after all the porcupines have been removed.

Porcupines are a liability for businesses, golf courses and restaurants. Animal bugs may infect your employees, guests or food. Also, if you are an employer and your workers’ environment is being contaminated by animals, you will see a drop in productivity due to illness. Remember, United Wildlife’s porcupine pest control experts can eradicate and manage a pest infestation brought in by an animal. Porcupine tree and yard damage can be extensive and cost much to replace and repair.

Q-8. I WANT TO TRAP OR KILL A PORCUPINE MYSELF. IS THAT OK?
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A. We understand the desire to take care of a porcupine problem yourself. It may be tempting to take matters into your own hands, but in the long run, you could put yourself, your family and your home at risk of damage, distress and disease. You must have special licensing and training to use porcupine poisons or repellents.

Porcupines are well-disguised and hard to find for the novice trapper. A porcupine sleeping in a tree will often look like a squirrel's or crow's nest.

Because of the unique behaviors of porcupines, it is very difficult for an amateur animal trapper to know how to get rid of porcupines. Shooting is not a good option to get rid of porcupines. If you don’t know what you’re doing when you trap a porcupine, it is likely the animal will become trap-shy and never come near your bait again. The animal removal experts at United Wildlife will humanely trap any existing porcupines, and then offer porcupine prevention ideas and techniques. 

Q-9. HOW CAN UNITED WILDLIFE’S ANIMAL CONTROL HELP ME GET RID OF MY PORCUPINE PROBLEM?
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A. United Wildlife’s specialty is the removal of porcupines from yards and from under houses or decks through special trapping techniques. Depending on city, county, federal and state law, the porcupine will either be relocated or euthanized once it is taken away. No matter the course of action, the animal will be treated in a humane manner.

It’s important to trap or kill porcupines immediately. Animals can be controlled and United Wildlife’s porcupine exterminators have huge success in trapping porcupines. United Wildlife’s porcupine trappers use a variety of live traps, kill traps, body-gripping traps and snaring, depending on the kind of porcupine infestation.

If a porcupine has already died in your yard or under your house, our professional porcupine trappers offer dead animal removal services and can also help clear odors caused by dead porcupines.

We’re professional porcupine trappers who will travel to any location to get the porcupines out.  We also do professional phone and Internet coaching with the use of digital pictures for those who live in remote areas and who want to perform pest control for porcupines. We can ship traps and equipment to help you trap animals yourself the right way. Either way, we will work with you to solve your porcupine invasion. There is not a porcupine problem that can’t be solved with United Wildlife’s professional porcupine trapping service.

Q-10. WHAT ARE UNITED WILDLIFE’S PAYMENT OPTIONS FOR PORCUPINE REMOVAL OR TO GET RID OF A PORCUPINE?
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A. Call United Wildlife’s porcupine extermination specialists and we’ll give you our rates. We charge incrementally per porcupine, number of service calls and time spent on project. Prices will vary depending on severity of the porcupine problem. Depending on the amount of animals and where they are living, you may be able to assist us with the porcupine problem as we are dealing with it. There is no free government service that takes care of porcupine control. The good news is, insurance companies will often pay for some, if not all, of the costs incurred to get rid of porcupines.

United Wildlife porcupine experts accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express. We also take purchase orders and cash.

Q-11. WHAT SHOULD I DO AFTER UNITED WILDLIFE ANIMAL CONTROL EXTERMINATES OR RELOCATES A PORCUPINE?
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A. Don’t entice other porcupines to return. We will help you make sure your yard, deck, house and shed are in proper order to deter any future quilled friends from entering. United Wildlife’s animal trappers know how to keep the porcupines out by using special porcupine fencing.

United Wildlife’s porcupine blockers can install special products which block porcupines from entering your yard, shed or deck.

Do remember that porcupines are wild and unpredictable. Though we have years of experience in the animal extermination field, a particular porcupine situation may require that we return more than once to get the job done right and to prevent porcupines in your yard or shed in the future. Incremental pricing will apply for our professional porcupine removal and all porcupine solutions are custom made and custom priced.

Our mission at United Wildlife is to help identify your porcupine pest damage. We will remove the existing porcupine pest and develop a custom wildlife solution to stop or control the porcupine problem from occurring again.

In the end, if you’re happy with our experienced, professional porcupine trappers, any referrals are always appreciated.

Porcupine Problem?

Our professional trappers can take control of your situation.
Call us now at 1-888-488-1415 or contact us online.

 

More Porcupine Information

Lifefacts
Porcupines are nocturnal, which means they are most active at night. 

Diet
They like to eat grasses, leaves, dandelions, clover and other wild flowers, they can also swim so they eat pond weeds, water-lilies and arrowhead.  They like to nibble on trees like:  hemlock, fir, pin, maple, beech, birch, oak, elm, cherry, and willow.  They will also gnaw on other wood objects and sometimes houses. 

Shelter
Dens are in rock crevices, caves, hollow logs, abandoned mines, and under houses and barns. 

DAMAGE PREVENTION AND CONTROL METHODS
(For more detailed information, continue to scroll further down the page)

Control Methods

  • Exclusion
  • Fences (small areas).
  • Tree trunk guards.

Cultural Methods

  • Encourage closed-canopy forest stands.

Trapping

  • Steel leghold trap (No. 2 or 3). Body-gripping (Conibear®) trap (No. 220 or 330).
  • Box trap.

Shooting

  • Day shooting and spotlighting are effective where legal.

Other Methods

  • Encourage natural predators.

Identification

Porcupines (Erethizon dorsatum), sometimes called “porkies” or “quill pigs,” are heavy-bodied, shortlegged, slow, and awkward rodents, with a waddling gait. Adults are typically 25 to 30 inches (64 to 76 cm) long and weigh 10 to 30 pounds (4.5 to 13.5 kg). They rely on their sharp, barbed quills (up to 30,000 per individual) for defense.

Range and Habitat

The porcupine is a common resident of the coniferous forests of western and northern North America. It wanders widely and is found from cottonwood stands along prairie river bottoms and deserts to alpine tundra. not unusual. How the quills are maneuvered through the coyote’s gastrointestinal tract is a mystery. Porcupines are active year-round and are primarily nocturnal, often resting in trees during the day. They favor caves, rock slides, and thick timber downfalls for shelter.

Damage and Damage Identification

Clipped twigs on fresh snow, tracks, and gnawings on trees are useful means of damage identification. Trees are often deformed from partial girdling. Porcupines clip twigs and branches that fall to the ground or onto snow and often provide food for deer and other mammals. The considerable secondary effects of their feeding come from exposing the tree sapwood to attack by disease, insects, and birds. This exposure is important to many species of wildlife because diseased or hollow trees provide shelter and nest sites.

Porcupines occasionally will cause considerable losses by damaging fruits, sweet corn, alfalfa, and small grains. They chew on hand tools and other wood objects while seeking salt. They destroy siding on cabins when seeking plywood resins.

Porcupines offer a considerable threat to dogs, which never seem to learn to avoid them. Domestic stock occasionally will nuzzle a porcupine and may be fatally injured if quills are not removed promptly.

Legal Status

Porcupines are considered nongame animals and are not protected.

General Biology, Reproduction, and Behavior

Porcupines breed in autumn, and after a 7-month gestation period usually produce 1 offspring in spring. Although the young are capable of eating vegetation within a week after birth, they generally stay with the female through the summer. Juvenile survival rates are high. Predators of porcupines include coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, black bears, fishers, martens, great horned owls, and others.

Food Habits

Porcupines eat herbaceous plants, inner tree bark, twigs, and leaves, with an apparent preference for ponderosa pine, aspen, willow, and cottonwood. Trees with thin, smooth bark are preferred over those with thick, rough bark. Porcupine feeding is frequently evident and has considerable impact on the cottonwood stands of western river bottoms.

Damage Prevention and Control Methods

Exclusion

Fencing small tree plantings, orchards, and gardens is effective in reducing porcupine damage. A 4- to 6-inch (10- to 15-cm) electric fence can be enhanced by painting molasses on the wire. Porcupines will climb fences, but an overhanging wire strip around the top of the fence at a 65o angle to the upright wire will discourage them.

Completely enclose small trees with wire baskets or encircle the trunks of fruit and ornamental trees with 30-inch (70-cm) bands of aluminum flashing to reduce damage.

Cultural Methods

Thinned forest stands are vulnerable to porcupine damage because lower vegetation can thrive. Porcupine populations are usually lower in closed canopy stands where understory vegetation is scant.

Repellents

Thiram is registered as a squirrel and rabbit repellent and may incidentally repel porcupines. This material is sprayed or painted on the plants subject to damage. It must be renewed occasionally to remain effective. Common wood preservatives may repel porcupines when applied to exterior plywoods. Avoid using wood preservatives that are metal-salt solutions. These will attract porcupines.

Toxicants

No toxicants can be legally used to control porcupines.

Trapping

Steel leghold traps of size No. 2 or 3 can be used to catch porcupines where legal. Cubby sets with salt baits, trail sets in front of dens, and coyote urine scent post sets near dens and damage activity are effective. Scent post and trail sets must be checked daily to release nontarget animals that might be caught. Leghold traps should be bedded, firmly placed and leveled, and offset slightly to the side of the trail. The trapped porcupine can be shot or killed by a sharp blow to the head.

The No. 220 or 330 Conibear® bodygripping trap can be baited with a saltsoaked material or placed in den entrances to catch and kill porcupines. Care must be taken to avoid taking nontarget animals, since salt attracts many animals. The Conibear® trap does not allow the release of accidental catches. Some states do not allow the use of No. 330 Conibear® traps for ground sets.

Porcupines are rather easy to livetrap with large commercial cage traps (32 x 10 x 12 inches [81 x 25 x 30.5 cm]) or homemade box traps. Place the live trap in the vicinity of damage and bait with a salt-soaked cloth, sponge, or piece of wood. Live traps also can be set at den entrances. Move the porcupine 25 miles (40 km) or more to ensure that it does not return. Since most areas of suitable habitat carry large porcupine populations, relocation of the porcupine often is neither helpful nor humane since the introduced animal may have a poor chance of survival.

Shooting

Persistent hunting and shooting of porcupines can be effective in reducing the population in areas that require protection. Night hunting, where legal, is effective. During winter months, porcupines are active and can be tracked in the snow and shot with a .22-caliber rifle or pistol. Porcupines often congregate around good denning sites and extensively girdle trees in the area. In such places large numbers may be taken by shooting.

Other Considerations

Porcupines are mobile and continually reinvade control areas. Complete control is not desirable since it would require complete removal of porcupines. Try to limit lethal porcupine control to individual animals causing damage by fencing and management of the plant species. In areas of high porcupine populations, plant ornamentals that are not preferred foods. Intensive predator control may encourage porcupine population increases.

Economics of Damage and Control

Economic losses can be considerable from porcupines feeding on forest plantings, ornamentals, and orchards as well as on leather and other human implements. Porcupines generally are tolerated except when commercial timber, high-value ornamental plantings, orchards, or nursery plants are damaged by girdling, basal gnawing, or branch clipping. On occasion, porcupines thin dense, crowded forest stands. Often tree diameter growth is reduced. Their preference for mistletoe as a food is an asset.

The porcupine is acclaimed as a beautiful creature of nature. It is an interesting animal that has an important place in the environment. It is edible and has been used by humans as an emergency food. The quills are used for decoratons, especially by Native Americans. The hair, currently used for fly-fishing lures, commands many dollars per ounce. Porcupines are not wary and can be readily observed and photographed by nature lovers. Porcupines may need to be controlled but should not be totally eradicated.

*The above information was taken from a University of Nebraska Web site with
express permission of Stephen Vatassel, wildlife damage project coordinator.


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