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Yes, We Do Have Porcupines!

By Chris Williams on October 3, 2012.

We often get questions about porcupines, we made a blog post addressing one of the most frequently asked questions.

A F.A.Q. for Porcupines

Question

"I was blown away this morning when I saw what seemed to be a porcupine in our back yard! I’ve never even heard of porcupines around here. Do they do any harm? Should I just ignore it? We don’t have a dog so I’m not worried about a pet getting 'quilled.'"

Answer

Image of a PorcupineWe do have porcupines in New Hampshire and Massachusetts but they’re not often seen since they’re active mostly at night—even though they’re active here year round. In fact, right now from September through early December is their noisy breeding season, plus they are busy bulking up on bark, twigs, and acorns. Maybe that’s why trappers affectionately call them “porkies!”

Porcupines are not aggressive, so you should not be alarmed if you happen to run into one during your day. They’re slow-moving and near-sighted and rest during the day on tree branches or in hollow logs or hollow trees, or in burrows or crevices. Porkies would be easy targets for predators if not for all those quills. And guess what? It’s an old wives tale that porcupines throw their quills. They don’t; the quills don’t come off unless touched or unless the threatened porkie slaps you with its tail, and then the quills are released easily. Each 1-1/2 to 4 inch long quill has a backward-projecting barb at the tip that means the quill cannot easily be pulled out and continues to work its way in for days after the event. Quills need to be removed from people and pets ASAP by a medical professional.

Use hot sauce to keep away porcupines

Most people might be able to live with docile porcupines in the vicinity if not for the major damage they can do to trees. During warm weather, porcupines will eat treeleaves, buds, nuts, fruits, and twigs—from any type of tree—as well as other types of vegetation. During the winter when these foods are harder to come by, they will chew through outer tree bark to reach the inner cambium. They’ve been known to completely girdle and kill small trees, much like beavers.

Unfortunately, porcupine damage doesn’t stop with trees. They have a strong need for salt in their diet and will chew on anything salty as well as items that have been handled by humans because of the salt in human sweat. Some typical items damaged by porcupine gnawing are tools, canoe paddles, wheelbarrow handles, porch railings, even outhouse seats! Porcupines can damage car tires and hoses as they try to get road salt, and leather items like saddles and bridles are also at risk.

Trees can be protected from gnawing with fencing or placement of a metal band around the trunk, 3 feet off of the ground. Rinse off tires and other objects that have been exposed to road salt or seawater. You can also treat susceptible objects with a capsaicin-based “hot sauce” repellent. The best and only permanent control, however, is to have the porcupine, or porcupines, humanely trapped. Give Colonial Pest Control a call for porcupine removal in these following places. We have fully licensed and trained wildlife trappers on our staff. You can view our services for other pest removal here.

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