What prickly pests porcupines prove to be. Though not the largest or fastest rodents, porcupines possess assets that not many animals have: they are sharp. Now you may be saying, “Well, duh! Everyone knows porcupines have quills!” However, what you may not know is that porcupines are smarter than you might think. Porcupines are sharp. This makes them a bit tricky to trap, but not impossible.
Due to a porcupine’s quills, using a cage trap is your best bet to trap the animal. You can use a leg trap but that leaves you with the conundrum of avoiding its quills while handling and releasing it. Place the trap by the base of a tree or other places you know the porcupine frequents. Place suitable bait in the trap. Once everything is set up all you have to do is wait for the animal to walk into your trap. Porcupines are typically solitary creatures so once you trap one, your porcupine problem will most likely disappear.
Sounds pretty simple, right? Well if this sounds too easy to be true, read on. We will give you more information and tips to make this trapping process easier as you read on.
Porcupine Trapping – How to Trap
Let’s lay out the process in more detail. Better to have too much information than too little, right? Let’s be sure we do not miss a thing since mistakes in this process can lead to prickly situations. Here’s how to trap a porcupine:
- Choose your trap. As mentioned above, your best bet for traps will be a live cage trap. You can use other traps such as snares or leg traps but snares will leave you with the issue of a dead animal in your yard, perfect bait for other animals or pets to get into trouble, and leg traps leave you with the problem of handling a porcupine while trying to avoid its quills. A cage trap is easy enough to get. You can find one at your local hardware store or online.
- Place your trap. When placing your trap, it is important to choose a place the porcupine frequents. You can do this through observation and placing the trap in places you have seen the porcupine wandering around before. You can also look for signs of the porcupine’s home or damage the porcupine has done to your yard and place the trap there. Porcupines tend to like chewing on the bark of trees, twigs, leaves, and other plant-based items common to an herbivore’s diet. Though porcupines tend to eat aspen, willow, ponderosa pine, and cottonwood trees, they will eat any species of tree available to them. If you see evidence of damage to any trees on your property, placing your trap there will yield a greater chance at successfully trapping the porcupine.
- Bait your trap. To get the porcupine to make its way into your perfectly placed trap, you will need to lace it with bait. Not just any bait, though. Make sure you use bait that will appeal to the porcupine’s tastes. These animals tend to have a thing for the salty stuff. Something simple like chunks of rock salt will be enough to lure the porcupine in. If simple salt is not enough to whet the porcupine’s appetite, try something a little more elaborate, like tree bark soaked in salt water or slices of apple with salt sprinkled on them.
- Check your trap. Once you have your trap placed, set, and baited, all you have left to do is wait and check on your trap regularly. Make it a daily habit to check on the trap and ensure whether an animal has been trapped or not. Leaving a porcupine or any other animal that managed to get trapped in a trap for more than a day will cause it unnecessary suffering as it will have no source of water and no other source of food than the bait. Checking regularly is also a great way to keep pets out of trouble, if you have any. Leaving a porcupine in the trap too long will just give dogs and other pets more of a chance to snoop about and get in trouble. However, make sure to not get too close to the trap and handle it too much, even if it is empty. This can cover the trap in a human scent, a scent that animals with excellent senses of smell, such as the porcupine, will be eager to avoid.
- Relocate the trapped porcupine.When you have finally trapped the porcupine, it is now time to relocate the animal to a better place. Before handling the trap, make sure you are wearing protective gloves and goggles, a long sleeve shirt, and thick pants such as jeans to avoid any injuries resulting from the porcupine’s quills or bite. You can place a sheet, blanket, or any other cloth fabric over the cage to calm the animal down. Keeping the porcupine inside the trap, transport the animal at least 10 miles away from your home to a wooded area with a readily available source of food and water to ensure it does not make an unwelcome return. If you would rather not bother with handling this portion of the process, you can always call local animal control or Humane Society to relocate the animal for you.
With these five simple steps, you can finally have a yard and garden free of porcupines and other troublesome pests.
Porcupine Trapping Tips
Trapping a porcupine can be a simple procedure at the best of times, but any mistakes or lack of knowledge can lead to some prickly and painful problems. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind while trapping a porcupine.
- Porcupines are herbivores which means they eat plants. This means that any vegetation in your yard, especially leaves, twigs, and the bark of trees are the most likely culprit for luring the porcupine to your yard in the first place. Wooded areas with evidence of porcupine damage (tree trunks stripped of their bark, gnawed branches and twigs, etc.) are where you will most likely find your unwelcome guest.
- Porcupines have a taste for the salty. They love munching on and eating anything with salt. If you are trying to find a perfect bait to use while trapping a porcupine, look no further than your pantry. Anything with salt, from the bark of a tree soaked in salt water to apple slices sprinkled with salt, will be a welcome snack for any porcupine.
- Since they do not build their own dens and, instead, using pre-existing structures as homes, porcupine dens can be a bit difficult to spot; during the summer especially. Sometimes, the only evidence of a porcupine den can be the animal’s droppings. However, winter makes seeking out porcupine dens a lot easier, especially if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow. The snow makes seeing porcupine’s tracks and tail sweeping much easier. These signs can lead you straight to the rodent’s home.
- A porcupine’s quills are covered in natural antibiotics. This will prevent any infections if you happen to get stuck with a quill. However, this will not make the experience of having and removing a barbed quill from your flesh any less painful. Make sure you wear protective gear if you plan to get anywhere near a porcupine.
- Porcupines are nocturnal. This means that you have a better chance of trapping a porcupine at night when it is out foraging for food than you are during the day when it is most likely in its den sleeping.
- The best trap to use for a porcupine is a cage trap. This will keep the porcupine safely inside of a cage thereby lessening the chances of you, your pets, or anyone else accidentally getting the sharp end of this animal.
- The name porcupine comes from the old French name for the animal, “porcd’espine,” or “thorny pork.” Interesting, right? But how does this help you trap the animal? Well, the porcupine was named “thorny pork” because its meat was seen as a tasty source of protein. So, if you are so inclined, you could shoot or lethally trap a porcupine and cook up its meat for a tasty meal.
Do Porcupines Stink?
If your yard is home to a porcupine and if you are trying to trap them, especially considering the up close and personal nature of dealing with a trapped porcupine, you may be wondering if porcupines have any unpleasant smells you should be aware of and avoid.
Yes, in fact, porcupines are quite smelly. Especially if they feel threatened, as they are likely to feel while being trapped, a porcupine releases a unique and pungent smell that warns potential predators that the porcupine’s quills are raised and ready to be used. The chemical compound that causes this smell is R Delta Decalactone, but most animals and people associate this smell with a painful prick from a porcupine’s quills.
If you will be anywhere near a porcupine, for example, handling a trap containing a scared porcupine, make sure you are at least wearing a nose plug to save yourself from the stench. You might also want to consider wearing clothes you will not mind throwing away if a load of laundry cannot get the stink out.
Where Do Porcupines Nest?
Geographically speaking, porcupines are known to make their homes as far north as Canada, in the Northeast of the U.S., in Michigan and Wisconsin, and as far southwest as Arizona, California, and Even down into Mexico and other Latin American countries.
Porcupines don’t usually build their own homes or burrow underground like some other rodents. These animals tend to make their homes in pre-existing rock crevices or in holes and hollows in trees. Ironically enough, since porcupines love to gnaw at and strip a tree of its bark, this often causes disease in the tree, causing rotting and hollowing of the affected area which makes for a perfect den for a porcupine. Other likely places for a porcupine to make their den include tree branches, rocky hollows, upturned logs, and semi-exposed root systems.
In general, forests are an ideal place for porcupines to make their home. They tend to prefer younger, immature forests with less developed trees that have trunks and branches that are not as thick and, therefore, are easier to chew and gnaw through. Aspen, pine, and hemlock forests are the most popular types of forests for porcupines to inhabit.
Are Porcupines Smart?
If you compare a porcupine to a human, you will, of course, find that it isn’t necessarily smart. But a porcupine can be sharp, and not just because of its quills. Unlike any other rodent, porcupines have a unique defense mechanism in their quills and they know how to use them. If threatened by a predator, a porcupine will rattle its quills together in hopes of scaring it off. It will even swat its tail at the predator to embed some quills in the animal. In doing so, some loose quills may fall out, which has led to the myth that porcupines can shoot their quills.
Porcupines, though slow, possess excellent senses of sight, hearing, and smell. They use these to get a head start on predators and avoid any unwanted confrontation with threats or dangerous situations.
Another testament to the porcupine’s sharp mind is their habit of making dens and homes out of pre-existing structures, saving themselves extra work and making their homes harder for humans and predators to find. A particularly smart habit of porcupines involves a blending of their eating and living habits.
Porcupines like to eat the bark of trees, often stripping trees of their protective layer an exposing them to disease. This can lead to rotting in the tree trunk and a hollow den for the porcupine to then make home. Talk about having your cake and sleeping in it, too.
Can You Touch a Porcupine?
Touching a porcupine is not something anyone would recommend doing. As is readily evident from even just a glance at this animal, a porcupine is covered, from neck to tail, it long, hard, sharp quills.
What’s more is that these quills have barbs at the tip of them that make insertion and extraction quite painful. Due to these barbs, you should forgo trying to remove the quills yourself and, instead, go to a doctor or other medical professional.
Furthermore, although the quills are covered in natural antibiotic, porcupine quills can still cause infections and more serious injury.
Pets, especially dogs, will run into many problems if stuck with a porcupine’s quills. A dog will instinctively rub its face on any surface it can find to relieve itself of the pain of these quills. However, this action will only drive the quills further into your pet, causing it further pain and you more worry. Take your pet to a veterinarian as soon as you can.
If you really want to touch a porcupine, however, there are ways to train one of these animals. If the animal is very calm and relaxed, it will not try to prick you. However, only attempt to touch a porcupine that has been trained to interact with humans. Only these such porcupines are able to be kept as pets.
Are Porcupines Protected?
Being a member of the rodent family, in fact, porcupines are, for the most part, not protected by law. In many places across the U.S., porcupine hunting is legal. However, there are places, such as Pennsylvania or other places where the porcupine population is declining, that prohibits the hunting of this animal. Most places, however, do allow residents to kill porcupines if one is causing property damage.
Before you take any lethal action, though, it is recommended that you check with your local law enforcement on your area’s rules and regulations regarding the treatment of animals such as the porcupine.
Do Porcupines Go Underground?
For the most part, porcupines tend to live above ground. They make their homes in pre-existing, readily available hollow areas such as holes in trees, crevices in rocks, or hollowed out logs.
Being creatures of opportunity, however, some porcupines have been known to make their homes underground if a subterranean opportunity presents itself. This could be an underground rock crevice or the pre-built underground burrow of another animal. To prevent porcupines making their homes on your property, be sure to fill in any holes, crevices, or hollow areas that could serve as a porcupine’s den.
Do Porcupines Come out During the Day?
Porcupines are largely nocturnal animals. During the day porcupines are most likely in their dens in logs, trees or rock crevices sleeping or caring for their young.
Seeing a porcupine during the day is very rare and seen as an odd occurrence. This could mean that the porcupine is sick or a predator or other circumstance drove the animal from its home.
Porcupines are such homebodies that, given the presence of danger or adverse weather, porcupines will remain in their dens for days at a time.
What is the Behavior of a Porcupine?
The most well-known behavior of porcupines is their being nocturnal. To see one out during the day time is very rare and usually suggests a threat or other adverse conditions at their den.
When they wander about at night they are typically in search of something salty to eat. Natural sources of food for porcupines include twigs, leaves, and bark from trees. They may also gnaw on and chew through wooden posts, fencing, or decks. Applying a coat of varnish has been known to discourage porcupines from gnawing on wooden structures.
Porcupines are slow moving animals, the third largest animal in the rodent category, and mainly rely on their quills for protection from predators. When threatened, they will swipe at the dangerous animal with their tail in hopes of embedding some quills in the predator. Porcupines have also been known to rattle their teeth and shake their bodies to make the quills knock against each other to scare potentioal predators away. When quills fall out of a porcupine’s body, new ones will grow back in a couple week’s time.
When they find themselves in adverse conditions, a porcupine does have quite advanced skills of swimming and diving they can rely on to help them evade danger.
Porcupines typically live alone in their den, though they do live with a mate or young when they reach the reproductive stage of their life. Porcupine dens can also be built quite close to each other if opportunities present themselves, such as a grouping of hollow crevices in a rocky terrain.
Are Porcupines Territorial?
Porcupines are largely not territorial. There is often much den overlap based on the availability of suitable homes and the terrain. Furthermore, during the winter and mating season, as many as 12 porcupines may den together, though this is an exception to the porcupines otherwise solitary life.
The only time a porcupine may become territorial is when they are feeding in a tree or their young are threatened. That is when they will engage their defenses and swing about their quill-covered tails with reckless abandon.
Do Porcupines Eat Fruit?
Yes, porcupines eat fruit. When it is available, fruit is a popular snack to chow on for these animals, a particular favorite being apples.
As mentioned before, porcupines love salty nourishment. So apples sprinkled in salt is sure to lure a porcupine to it.
In the wild, porcupines don’t have much access to fruit, instead eating the inner bark of trees, pine needles, twigs, and other herbivore delights. Porcupines also like to snack on the sweet sap of maple trees in regions where it is available.
Long story short, if you are looking for a great bait to put in your porcupine trap, salted apples will do the trick. I mean, who can turn down a rare treat from time to time?
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare