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Porcupines--- Do they kill trees?

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by EDGE, Mar 29, 2009.

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  1. EDGE

    EDGE New Member

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    Hey!

    I seem to be having a problem with porcupines. They are chewing on oaks in many places in my woods. The buggers seem to prefer thriving, young oaks though I see that they also chew on lindens, and chokecherry trees.
    When I first moved out into the woods, I noticed that a lot of oaks had two-stage bark--- they had normal, heavy bark higher up the tree but younger, thinner bark at their bases. I puzzled over this for years until I saw fresh chewings and came to the understanding that it was being done by porcupines.
    I spotted one up in an oak last week and shot it. My policy towards wildlife is to leave it alone unless it is causing me a problem. But if it is causing me a problem, I kill. I took a sled out and brought it back up to the yard. They're not on my bill of fare--- at least not yet, so I called a buddy who does eat such things and he came out and picked it up.
    But now, as spring is beginning to come here up north, I am getting out into the woods more often and am seeing more porcupine damage in many other spots. I am tempted to engage in an all-out war, but then I think about the old oaks that seem to have survived such damage in the past. I don't like the idea of denying habitat to one of God's creatures, but I worship my big, old oaks and I figure that these creatures could do their thing elsewhere. We had them out on the prairies where I grew up. However, if the damage they are inflicting is not serious then I think I might like to leave them alone. But if the damage is actually killing some of the young oaks, I may choose to provide Old Dave with more roasts.
    Anyone have any observations?

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  2. vwboomer

    vwboomer New Member

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    The only good porcupine is a dead porcupine. They eat trees, decks, anything.
  3. DonNH

    DonNH New Member

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    I don't think I've ever seen any damage to oaks around here from porcupines. Generally they go after the hemlocks.
    I've got one out back with a dead top from one which took up residence in my tarp shed.

    Unfortunately, the critter expired from a sudden onset of lead poisoning - shortly after I discovered it had filled my kayak cockpit with droppings.

    Don
  4. JustWood

    JustWood Minister of Fire

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    You bet they will kill trees. If you think you have 1 or 2 you really have 15-20. I bought 60 acres 6 years ago that had hundreds of damaged trees on it and thought I probably had 10 - 15 resident Pine Pigs. Since then I have removed 178 of these bastages.
  5. Wallyworld

    Wallyworld Member

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    They like to eat Apple and Pear trees. Not sure if they kill them but they certainly ruin them
  6. mbcijim

    mbcijim Member

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    I hesitate to post because I don't know this for certain. I was told if they eat the bark the whole way around the tree, it will die. Not sure on the accuracy of that comment.
  7. skinnykid

    skinnykid New Member

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    I didn't know that about porcupines, Never really see the buggers alot. I know they will mess up a dog. I think I can recall seeing less than a handful. One I shot out of a tree.
  8. rphurley

    rphurley Feeling the Heat

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    I love porcupines. Then again, I've never seen one! :)
  9. wingsfan

    wingsfan Feeling the Heat

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    We feed the posums and raccoons golden marlin fly bait. Kills them right away. The only thing is you can't use it if you have pets that run around the yard.It will work on porcupines also.
  10. EDGE

    EDGE New Member

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    Hey, Blah Ho Vick, can you give me some pointers on how you are having such success in hunting these things? I have decided that I am going to eradicate them if I can. I have read that they are mostly nocturnal. I don't get home from work till 1AM, so I am up and around in the middle of the night, but by then I'm more in the mood for beer than a foray in the forest. Today I took a maul and knocked a chunk of salt off the block I keep out for the deer, carried my live-trap out to where I am seeing damage from another one and have seen tracks leading to a hole in a log, and baited the trap with the salt. Hope that works. But I'd sure be interested in knowing your methods.
  11. Jay H

    Jay H New Member

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    Porcupines are somewhat deadly to trees, they like to climb them in the daytime and forage at night. In the daytime at the tops of trees, (not dead trees like woodpeckers do), they'll eat the bark and sometimes will "clearcut" some of the trees. The debarking is not deadly, per se, but of course, the bark is the tree's mainline defense against pests and disease so indirectly, they are harming the trees.

    They also like salt, which can mean they like the sweat of humans, even some paint that have salt in them. They have been known to chew up signs, aluminum, etc. The typical means of defense is thick chicken wire like fence material to cover them.

    Yes, they're also harmful to inquisitive pets and dogs have been known to get a few barbs in their noses which can be quite painful for the dog. Pliers and a lot of coercion and pain-adversion is necessary for the dog lover.. ouch, I would never want to be in the position to have to remove quills from them and I know some dog lovers who have.


    Porcupines have no really known enemy except for the fisher cats, which are known to be able to be fast and agile enough to get at the porky's unprotected underbelly. they are immune from most predators.

    Jay
  12. bambam

    bambam Member

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    If your post would have been "BamBam-----does he kill porcupines" I would have to answer with a yes. I have seen some trees that died and did have the bark chewed off but not sure if that was the cause or if the chewing of the bark was the animals trying to get bugs out of the dead tree. We have a hunting/vacation cabin in northcentral Pa. and my dad said there used to be an old outhouse there but porcupines ate it(would have to be a really hungry wood pig to eat an outhouse I'd think).
  13. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck Minister of Fire

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    ....I was told if they eat the bark the whole way around the tree, it will die. Not sure on the accuracy of that comment....

    Anytime the bark is removed the whole way around a tree, the part of the tree above the removed bark will die. Removing a ring of bark is how to girdle (kill) a tree. It takes a few years for the tree to die, but it works. I have seen porcupine damage on all sorts of things, and heard about even more. I've seen them chew outhouses, picnic tables, and treated wood piled in the woods, and a guy I know told me that porcupines destroyed his aluminum tree stands. What he actually said was that porcupines almost completely ate his aluminum tree stand, which I find hard to believe, except that he doesn't seem like the kind of guy to make things up. Although they seem to be common around here, based on stories I've heard and damage I've seen, I have never seen a porcupine, and I spend a lot of time in the woods. Maybe I am looking in the wrong places, or maybe they're elusive.
  14. Jay H

    Jay H New Member

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    porcupines will forage on the ground at night, but in general, in the daytime, they are either den up, high in trees or probably more commonly, den up inside rock caves and other shelters that offer protection. One will see porcupine scat in many rocky caves where they den.

    Porcupines are well known in the catskills of NY state to chew on trail markers, even the aircraft aluminum of the various civilian and military plane wrecks that scatter the catskills. Tell tale signs of the chewing is laceration scratches along the edges of anything they can get their teeth into. That would probably include aluminum tree stands, especially if a human has occupied it and the sweat from our bodies get on the object. they will chew sneakers, leantos, etc..

    Jay
  15. Birch Boy

    Birch Boy Member

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    Porcupine Love...........Gotta be very very careful :bug:

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  16. mbcijim

    mbcijim Member

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    GREAT pics Inferno!

    I've hunted civet (a small bobcat like cat) in Africa, and by consequence, African porcupine. The porcupines love fruit. Similar in weight, but the quills are massive - 12"-18". We hunted the cats with a spotlight in fruit tree plantations, driving perpindicular to the rows and shining down the rows. Shot one porcupine, but could have shot a lot more. Saw lots of porcupines at night, none during the day. Don't know if that translates to hunting American Porcupines or not, sorry. Truthfully, it was an interesting and fun story, and I just wanted to tell it!
  17. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    LOL
    A coworker has a horse that tried to kiss one and got a nose full of quills.

    On the farm, our dogs frequently got a mouthful of quills, and some dogs more than once.
  18. Birch Boy

    Birch Boy Member

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    Back in the early 80's I got a chance to stay up at the lodge after guide season and trap with the locals. Needless to say there were many adventures but one that this thread reminds me of had to do with a porcupine. On the way back to camp one evening we came across a large porky up a tree. Guess the native bro wanted to show the two young white guys a survival technique. They knocked the porcupine outta the tree and when it fell my brother and I sure were wondering how the heck it was possible to do anything with a critter so heavily armed with quills. The two natives went to work, one making a fire the other sharpening a pole. The pole after sharpening was skewered through the porky and then the beast set over the now roaring fire. My brother and I just watched wondering what next?
    In short order after the porky was well singed, they removed it from the pole skinned it's quilless carcass and quartered it. We then continued on back to camp. Once back at camp they then boiled up the porcupine quarters for supper. God awful is the way I remember the flesh, Tasted just like the singeing fire smoke smelled but guess if you were starving it could sustain you.
    Far as I know up in this neck of the woods porcupines are protected from sport hunting. The reason for this is because they are such easy quary they should be saved in the case that someone is lost and hungry in the wilderness. Not really applicable these days.
    We live surrounded by bush and can only see porcupine damage to the trees if you look very carefully. If I had prized trees and they were doing major damage, I would treat them like any other harmful pest. We got lots of trees, the dogs only get into quills every once in a while and the horses never so I live and let live. Maybe someday I'll be hungry enough and will be glad there are lots of porcupines. ;-)

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  19. EDGE

    EDGE New Member

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    Well, the salt worked. I checked the trap at noon and found porky in it. I must have thought I would find him in the box, because I took the sled when I went out. I hauled him back to the yard and tried to contact Dave, but could get a hold of him. I had no intention of eating the thing myself, so I just let him out for a last run. I didn't want to release him somewhere else and dump my problem on a neighbor.
    My brother and I once pulled what seemed like a hundred quills from a dog's nose and mouth. She sat and quivered, but she let us finish, and by the next day you couldn't tell she had had a problem. She was eating just fine. I had a dog that came home with about a dozen quills in the nose when he was young. I pulled them and saved them in a bottle. Every so often, I would take one out and let him sniff it. He'd jerk his head back and give me a wide-eyed look that showed that he remembered. And he never came home with quills again after that.
    I too have heard of horses getting a snoutful of quills.
    The reason I asked the question of whether pocupines kill the trees they feed on is that I have seen a lot of old oaks that have the two stage bark all around their bases--- as if they were indeed girdled once long ago. This made me think that somehow, the porcupines feeding technique might leave enough living tissue for the oak to recover and grow new bark. I don't know how else to explain this condition. Still, of course, I don't know whether other oaks did succumb. Anyways, I have noticed that there is a lot more moss on the oak trees that have this thin bark at the base, and that is what made me decide that I am going to try to eliminate or at least reduce the population that is causing the damage I am seeing. As Jay H pointed out, losing a big chunk of bark has got to be harmful to a tree.
  20. Der Fuirmeister

    Der Fuirmeister Member

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    Stupid dog.......
  21. Jay H

    Jay H New Member

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    A lot of the damage I see to trees, some beech, maples, etc are typically towards the canopy as they'll den up high and eat. I don't think they like to spend a lot of time on the ground in the open. I can usually spot telltale signs of porcupine damage by looking at the treetops when I'm in the woods. Or you can usually find their dens, under rocks filled with porcupine scat which sort of look a medium brown in color and football shaped, a lot like a Moose scat, except you wouldn't find moose scat under rocks that they wouldn't fit in...

    I think if you put fencing around the base of the tree, that may keep them from climbing it and/or eating the bark. Porcupines are very rampant around leantos in the catskills. Just think, you, not only have people eating and leaving scraps to forage, you have people who are hot and sweaty and therefore, leaving salt on the leanto. You'll find certain leantos completely chewed up and gnawed on by porcupines! And since they're nocturnal, they'll sometimes attack the leanto with you inside it. It's happened to me before, one moment, you'll be sleeping in your sleeping bag, the next, you'll hear this loud gnawing sound of one or more porkys chewing on the logs. They're not aggressive to humans, but inquisitive dogs and stuff are problems, as some of you have found out first hand.

    Jay
  22. SuburbanFarmer

    SuburbanFarmer Member

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    I have porcupine wars: I lost a 'professionally trimmed' beech in front of our house. The porkers had girdled two feet of bark all the way around the base. In the fall they 'trim' the tops of oak trees, breaking branches off, and then munching on the young acorns. (Not harmful, but it makes a mess on the lawn.) My dog has had many run-ins with them - he merrily wanted to play, but they swat their quill-filled tails. When I called my local cooperate extension and discussed trapping via Hav-a-hart traps, he told me to use black berry pie filling for bait, and then asked me ‘What was I going to do with them after I caught them?” I said that was one of the reasons that I was calling him. He said that he would not be happy if I let them go in HIS neighborhood. I forgot about the traps and went with the 22 caliber solution. Incidentally, the post about using them for food, a Navy Seal friend said that porcupines were the last option for food because they taste like turpentine from their heavy diet of hemlock bark.
  23. EDGE

    EDGE New Member

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    Hey, there, again---

    I don't know how to put up photos, but if someone who does know how would like me to e-mail some of Dave and a porky, I could do that.

    Yeah, Jay, I see damage high up too, but also at the base of trees. Your description of their scat is exactly right. Up here, they seem to clean house about the end of February or beginning of March. That is when the pile of "scat" gets pushed out from the log one is living in. Where I live, I can't really protect individual trees because I have too many trees. They are chewing on quite a few--- say 50--- and those are scattered throughout the woods.

    And SuburbanFarmer my tractor is a Massey Ferguson FE-35 made in Coventry, England. It has the 3-cylinder Perkins diesel. Cool items!
  24. ssupercoolss

    ssupercoolss Member

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    a friend of mine has a cabin in central PA, he has aluminium wrapped around the base of his house and deck post. he says they are just unbelievable with what they will eat through. he says they are kind of loud too, when chewing on the house.
  25. Jay H

    Jay H New Member

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    Yup.. I can say that I've slept in a few leantos in the catskills where a porcupine and his friends started to chew on the leanto... It sounds like a fricken' wood grinding factory for sure. And for some reason, 3 porcupines started to frolick in the ashes from the campfire. One got close enough for my friend to poke it with a hiking pole. It was the fastest I've ever seen one of them move!

    Jay
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