Porcupines and Their Control

Porcupines, being rodents, love to chew. While their job in the forest seems to be cutting tree branches to allow the sun to reach other plants on the forest floor, many homeowners have found that porcupines love to chew tool handles and sometimes even car parts in their search for salt.


Wildlife Damage Control is pleased to reprint Wildlife Rehabber, Linda Mihatov's article on Porcupines. This article is Copyrighted and it may not be copied without Ms. Mihatov's permission.

PORCUPINE (Erethizon dorsatum)

DESCRIPTION: MATING SEASON: October to November Newborn:

GESTATION: 205 to 217 days Body: 12" long

LITTER SIZE: One porcupet Fur: fuzzy under coat, with soft

LITTERS PER YEAR: One quills that harden as they dry within a

LIFE SPAN: Wild: 12 years few hours of birth Captivity: 10 to12 years Weight: 12 to 20 oz.

BODY TEMPERATURE: 99 to 100 F . Eyes: open as quills dry, dull black

RESPIRATION: 300 / minute Teeth: have upper and lower

TEETH: Rodent, large, orange. Gnaw front front teeth, orange colored. constantly to keep sharp and chiseled, 20 Young: total. Body: stocky, short legs, broad head,

PREDATORS: fishers, owls,domestic dogs small ears hidden in fur, length 16" to 20". coytoes, cars, pesticides, man.

Weight: 3 1/2 - 4 lb. by end of summer. Tail: short, about 1/3 of body length, spineless. Feet: Front and back have long claws, back soles are thick and callused. Able to climb by two days old. Fur: Under coat varying grey to brown over black, side hairs yellow or white ends. Wooly under-fur; long, stiff guard hairs. Quills from upper head to tip of tail. Adult: Body: 25" from nose to base of tail. Older males up to 36" long. Tail: 5" long, quill covered, club-like, spineless. Weight: 5 to16 lbs. average, older males up to 40 lbs. Porcupines are the second largest rodent in the United States. Feet: same as young. Fur: same as young. Quills, with sharp, pointed barbs, average 3 to 6", but can reach 12" long. Hollow, they lie flat along the body; erected by muscle contractions. Two molts per year.

DIET: Herbivore Wild: Captivity: Plants, fruits, vegetables, buds, water- Newborns: use milk replacement lilies, bark (hemlock, Douglas fir, Ponder- formula such as Esbilac, KMR, Zoo- osa pine, maple, oak, beech, birch.) They logic's Milk Matrix 30/55 and 42/25 crave salt. mixed (800-323-0877), Fox Valley Animal Nutrtion's formula (800-679-4666). Porcupets nurse for only two weeks. Young: Begin eating solid food at one week old. Weaned by 3 months old. Add strained vegetable and fruit baby food to formula mix and begin to offer it in a dish. Water provided in a non-tip bowl. Adult: Natural diet. Water provided in a non-tip dish. A commercial salt block can be provided.

HABITAT Wild: Captivity: Forests, any area with a food source. Newborn: 10 gallon lidded Home range is 3-36 acres, up to 65 acres aquarium external heat lamp on LOW, pine in summer. Den dwellers,using caves, shaving bedding. abandoned fox dens, hollow logs or Young: Wire mesh and metal deserted buildings. enclosure, 4'W X 8'L X 6'H with tree trunks/branches, hollow logs or arti- . ficial dens. Bedding hay or wood shavings. Adult: Same as young, with size of 6''W X 8'L X 6'H per animal. Release: Select an appropriate wooded area with shelter available in the form of caves, hollow logs or deserted buildings, as far from habitation and roads as possible. Porcupets must be fully weaned, eating an all natural diet, and used to residing outdoors prior to release. They do not need to be released in family units, and may be set free during daylight. It is not necessary to leave food at the release site.

BEHAVIOR: Porcupines are solitary in summer, yet several may occupy the same den during the winter. They are mot true hibernators, but den up during severe weather. Porcupines are slow moving, running up to 2 mph. They are good swimmers, and excellent tree climbers. They have a keen sense of smell, but poor sight and hearing. They use their quills as a defense, but cannot 'shoot' them. Quills are released on contact. Barbed at the business end, quills imbed deeply and can migrate throughout the body.


1.) Porcupines causing landscape or property damage: * Reduce tree damage by banding individual trees with a 2-3" high metal cylinder, placed about 3' off the ground to prevent porcupines from climbing. Do not leave cylinders on long term, as tree damage may result. * Try repellents with capsaisin bases can discourage gnawing on inappropriate objects. Scram (800-276-3532) and Miller's Hot Sauce (800-233-2040) are two available commercially. * Thoroughly hose off work tools to remove sweat-salt build up to reduce porcupine gnawing on them. Using repellent on items where appropriate. Remember: repellents can come off on your hands, too. 2.) QUILLED! * Seek professional assistance for quill removal, as serious injuries and even fatalities can occur. * Pets require anesthesia and antibiotics for quill treatment. * Humans need to see a physician . * To more easily remove, clip extending end to release pressure in quill before attempting to pull it out. Always pull in the direction it is embedded in.

3. Trapping is an excellent control method (follow state laws). A simple raccoon trap is sufficient. Click Traps





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