Found throughout the United States, porcupines are covered in spiny quills that they use for defense. Contrary to popular belief, they cannot shoot quills at attackers but are capable of embedding the barbs into the skin of predators. Known for feeding on a variety of trees and plants, the herbivorous rodents become problematic when they venture into areas of human habitation searching for salt. Porcupines gnaw on housing structures, automobiles, and other materials coated in or containing salt residue.
Porcupines are the second largest rodent in North America, with only beavers exceeding them in size. They are typically dark brown or black in color, grow up to 3 feet (90 cm) in length, and weigh up to 30 pounds (14 kg). Easily recognized by their spiny coats, porcupines can have up to 30,000 barbed quills on their backs, and these quills tend to lay flat until the animal is faced with a threat. Porcupine paws feature claws and unique palms that allow for easy climbing and movement among trees.
Highly adaptable, porcupines can be found at various elevations and thrive in different climates throughout the country. Though they favor forested regions, porcupines also make their homes in tundra and deserts. North American porcupines are usually found moving through trees but can also be spotted on the ground where there is sufficient brush for cover. In the winter, porcupines rest in rock dens.
Are porcupines known to enter homes or yards?
Porcupines typically stay out of residential areas when searching for sources of food. As herbivores, they eat various trees, bark, and saplings to satisfy their need for nitrogen-rich foodstuffs. However, when food sources are limited in their natural habitat, porcupines will enter yards and other populated areas to chew on tool handles, wooden structures, and accumulations of salt runoff. The animals rarely enter homes.
Do porcupines harm people or property?
Most of the damage caused by porcupines is a result of their chewing and feeding. They girdle trees, stripping away bark and stunting growth, and also mutilate wooden buildings and telephone poles. When threatened or cornered, porcupines raise their quills in defense and nearby humans and pets may become impaled with their painful barbs. Finally, like other rodents, porcupines carry disease-causing parasites, including fleas, mites and ticks.
Control and Safety
In rare cases, porcupines will nest under decks, porches and building foundations while they gnaw on wooden structures. To keep them out, property owners may turn to fencing and other exclusion methods. However, there are very few effective long-term means of porcupine control available, and their sharp quills make handling and trapping dangerous and costly.
Trapping and Removal
Critter Control wildlife specialists have the equipment, training and knowledge to successfully remove troublesome porcupines. Unqualified individuals should never attempt to approach the rodents as they are wild animals that bite and scratch to escape capture. Porcupines also carry infectious diseases and parasites that can be harmful to both pets and humans alike.
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