Even if you’ve never seen a porcupine, you can paint a vivid picture in your mind of these large, trundling rodents armed with sharp quills. These strange-looking animals can significantly damage trees, gardens, and buildings if left unchecked. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to deter them!
Porcupines have an excellent sense of smell which they use to find food and understand their environment. Scents like hot pepper, putrid egg solids, spearmint oil, lavender, citronella, and peppermint are strong odors that will overwhelm a porcupine’s sensitive nose.
Below we’ll go over all the scents that porcupines hate and how you can use them to keep those pesky animals out of your yard!
Why Do You Need To Repel Porcupines?
Porcupines are solitary animals, so they typically don’t rank high on anyone’s list of pest animals. However, in certain regions, porcupines can be a serious menace.
Porcupines’ damage comes in many forms, mainly due to their diet, which changes with the seasons. It also depends on where the porcupine lives.
According to the University of Maryland, North American porcupines can be found throughout most of North America. The only exceptions are the great plains and southeastern regions of the US.
In terms of their diet, porcupines are exclusively herbivores. They enjoy leaves, twigs, berries, nuts, seeds, flowers, fruit, inner tree bark, and evergreen needles.
A porcupine’s general demeanor is docile, but they have quills for a reason! Despite being solitary and docile, there are a few reasons why you need to repel porcupines.
Porcupines Damage Trees
Porcupines are strong climbers, spending much of their time in trees either sleeping, resting, or eating.
There are a variety of ways that porcupines damage trees, including:
- Damaging the bark
- Clipping twigs
- Eating leaves
- Eating flowers and buds
An article in the Canadian Journal of Forest Research looked at the impact of porcupine feeding on hemlock forests over 15 years.
They found that feeding damage by porcupines along the north coast of British Columbia was so significant that it changed the dominant species of a forest.
Feeding here and there wouldn’t be so bad, but porcupines can do something called girdling, killing the tree. Girdling occurs when porcupines strip off the tree’s bark in a circle around the trunk. This prevents vital nutrients from reaching the other parts of the trees.
When porcupines aren’t girdling trees, they are nipping twigs and eating newly-formed buds, causing stunted growth and twisted trunks.
Porcupines Damage Structures
It may be surprising to learn that porcupines are part of the rodent family. They are the second largest rodent in North America. Beavers take first place in that regard.
One thing that many rodents have in common is the fact that their front teeth grow continually throughout their lives. To keep them from growing too large, rodents chew on hard material to file them down.
Porcupines are no different and need to chew to keep their teeth from growing too large.
Unfortunately, their chew toy of choice can be the side of your house or shed. Porcupines love chewing on wood. They will target wooden tool handles, siding, plywood, and anything else made of wood.
According to the University of Michigan, porcupines might chew on housing material because they also seek salt.
Deter Porcupines Using These 7 Recommended Scents
Scent deterrents may not be as effective as physical fencing or traps, but it is a natural and organic approach that can be just as effective when used correctly.
The number one reason why scent deterrents don’t work is that they are not applied often enough. Scent deterrents must be reapplied to the problem area weekly and anytime after heavy rainfall.
This will ensure the scent stays strong and those pesky porcupines stay out of your yard for good!
Use Hot Sauce To Deter Porcupines
Cayenne pepper gives hot sauce that extra tingly spicy feeling in our mouths. Specifically, it is the ingredient capsaicin.
Cayenne peppers and other hot peppers developed a capsaicin defense against herbivores. And it works!
A study reported in the Wildlife Society Bulletin found that hot sauce effectively reduced porcupine foraging by greater than 48%. The main ingredient in hot sauce? Hot peppers!
Even at a concentration of just 0.06% hot sauce, porcupines were deterred.
Why does hot sauce deter porcupines? The first reason is that capsaicin activates pain receptors in the mouth.
The second reason is that hot sauce has a very pungent and strong odor. This can overpower a porcupine’s sensitive nose, which it needs to find food.
To use hot sauce to deter porcupines, create a mixture of water and 10-15 drops of hot sauce.
Place the mixture in a spray bottle and spray outside in problem areas around the garden, on tree trunks, on wooden tool handles, and anywhere else those pesky porcupines are invading.
You can also use cayenne pepper powder and sprinkle it around problem areas. Consider misting with water afterward to ensure the powder sticks.
Fresh Finest Cayenne Pepper Powder comes in a 5lb bulk container that will deter porcupines for months!
They Hate The Scent Of Rotten Eggs
Who doesn’t? The scent of rotten eggs is offensive to people and animals, and for a good reason!
Putrescent whole egg solids are often used as repellents for deer, but they are also effective against beavers and porcupines.
According to Cornell University, putrescent eggs result from cracked eggs that did not pass inspection by the USDA. They are taken and basically made to rot and then placed in repellents to protect plants.
A little gross, but hey, if it works, right?
Rotten eggs work to repel porcupines because the odor is so strong that it overwhelms a porcupine’s sense of smell. Porcupines need their sense of smell to find food, so anything too powerful will deter them.
Bonide Repels-All Animal Repellent uses putrescent whole egg solids as its main ingredient. It comes in a ready-to-use spray bottle that can be sprayed in areas you want to protect.
Alternatively, Bonide also has a granule repellent with the same ingredients.
Repel Porcupines With The Power Of Spearmint
Essential oils have exploded in popularity over the years. They’ve become household items for their many different uses and scents.
Spearmint oil is awesome. The oil can be used to relieve headaches and help with colds. It’s an antimicrobial, a bug repellent, and a flavoring agent for candy and chewing gum.
One other thing that spearmint oil can do is repel pesky porcupines and deter them from damaging your trees and structures.
Spearmint is an herb in the mint family. It’s sometimes referred to as cornmint or simply as Mint. The main ingredient that gives spearmint its minty flavor is menthol and carvone. It’s these two ingredients that help repel porcupines.
Menthol and carvone have a very strong odor. Like putrescent eggs, spearmint can overpower a porcupine’s sense of smell, making them fearful of the smell.
To use spearmint to repel porcupines, mix 10-15 drops of spearmint essential oil with water and place the mixture in a spray bottle. Spray in areas that are vulnerable to porcupine damage.
Unlike putrescent eggs, spearmint smells good to us humans! So, feel free to use this product close to the house or on commonly-used tools.
Porcupines Dislike The Smell Of Lavender
Ah, lovely lavender. The smell eases stress and relaxes the mind. Lavender is a perennial herb that gives off a strong scent.
Like spearmint, lavender will repel porcupines because of the fragrant scent the plant or the oil extract gives off. The strong scent will make it difficult for the porcupine to locate food in the area, encouraging it to trundle off to another location.
To use lavender to repel porcupines, you have a couple of different options:
- Use the plant: Plant lavender in areas where you don’t want porcupines investigating. Consider planting them near your house to prevent chewing on corners and edges of wooden decks or porches.
- Use the essential oil: Combine 10-15 drops of lavender essential oil for every cup of water. Place the mixture in a spray bottle and spray problem areas around the yard.
- Use sachets: If you’d rather not plant anything or use a spray, you can hang sachets in areas that you want to protect from porcupines. Lavande Sur Terre’s 24 Packs French Lavender Sachets is an excellent choice.
Using the lavender plant is a great choice if you’re looking for an overall passive way to deter porcupines.
The essential oil is better if you’re targeting a specific area, such as a shed corner, tool handle, or young tree.
Sachets can be used as both a passive deterrent and an active deterrent. If porcupines are actively chewing on trees or structures, hang these in those areas. Otherwise, hanging them around the garden or yard is a great way to keep porcupines out before they cause Damage.
Use Citronella To Repel Porcupines
We’ve all heard about the amazing mosquito repellent called citronella. But citronella’s repellent effect isn’t limited to annoying buzzing insects. It can repel porcupines as well!
According to the National Pesticide Information Center, citronella contains three main repellent ingredients:
These three babies combine to make both an insect and animal repellent. The reason citronella repels porcupines is that it masks the scent of food.
This type of repellent is similar to lavender and spearmint, making it difficult for porcupines to locate food in the presence of these scents.
How can you use citronella to repel porcupines? You can’t place candles all over the yard, so what can be done?
Essential oils to the rescue! Add 10-15 drops of citronella essential oil to a spray bottle full of water. Spray around the yard in areas where you want to repel porcupines.
Porcupines Can’t Stand The Smell Of Peppermint
Spearmint and peppermint – what’s the difference? Both spearmint and peppermint are part of the mint family. Both contain menthol. Is there any difference?
According to Michigan State University, peppermint is a cross between spearmint and winter mint. The percentage of menthol is higher in spearmint than in peppermint.
That being said, peppermint is still quite effective at deterring porcupines. Like spearmint and citronella, it masks food items’ scent. This causes porcupines to search elsewhere for food and leave your yard alone.
To use peppermint to repel porcupines, you can use the essential oil combined with water to create a spray.
Another option is to buy a pre-made solution. Mighty Mint’s 16oz Peppermint Oil Rodent Repellent Spray makes life easy. Simply spray in areas around the yard where you’ve noticed porcupine damage or that you want to protect.
Keeping Porcupines Away Long Term
Scent deterrents are easy-to-use, natural remedies to keep porcupines away. However, they’re not foolproof.
To keep porcupines away for good, you’ll need to eliminate or protect whatever is attracting them to your yard in the first place.
Fencing is a great way to protect vulnerable trees and gardens. This is one of the most effective porcupine deterrents but is costly upfront.
Porcupine fences should be at least 18 inches high and buried 6 inches in the ground. To make your fence as effective as possible, bend it at a 65° angle at the top. Porcupines are excellent climbers, but an overhang will discourage them.
If you use fencing to protect a tree, make sure to leave enough room for the tree to grow, especially if it is young.
Provide Alternative Food Sources
Porcupines crave salt due to how their bodies process sodium from tree bark and other plant materials.
You can place a salt block out to encourage the porcupine to eat that instead of your shed or house.
That being said, just be aware that if you don’t currently have a porcupine problem, placing a salt block out will definitely attract them!
Use Commercial Repellents
There are plenty of repellents on the market for deer, squirrels, insects, and mice, but what about porcupines?
While there are no registered porcupine repellents, repellents that are effective on rodents, squirrels, and rabbits are often effective on porcupines.
Put In Tree Protectors
Tree protectors are a great way to keep porcupines from stripping the bark to reach the inner cambium and phloem of the tree, which is their favorite part!
Dimex EasyFlex Plastic Tree Trunk Protectors comes with six protectors that can be combined or used separately so you can protect a tree trunk of any size.
Make Your Yard Less Attracting
You may not be able to remove all the things in your yard that attract porcupines. It’s unreasonable to cut down all your trees, remove gardens, and put a fence around your entire house just for the sake of these trundling rodents.
Instead of going to the extreme, one way to deter porcupines long term is to change up your yard to make it unattractive to porcupines:
- Put away tools with wooden handles
- Remove any unused wood laying in the yard
- Avoid salt-metal wood preserves
- Use sand or kitty litter instead of salt for de-icing sidewalks and driveways
These simple steps will make your yard less attractive to porcupines and, combined with other tactics, can keep them away long term.
Use Scare Tactics
Porcupines are nocturnal animals, making it difficult to see them damaging your trees and homes.
Scare tactics are a great way to repel porcupines and make them think twice about setting a foot (or paw!) in your yard.
Some of the things that porcupines find extra scary include:
- Motion-activated lights
- Motion-activated sprinklers
- Jars full of water
Okay, that last one was a bit strange – jars full of water? Porcupines are solitary animals that travel alone. If they happen to catch their reflection in a jar of water, it may be enough to scare them off because they will think another porcupine is around.
Think of it similar to your pup barking at themselves in the window.
That’s A Wrap!
Porcupines may not be on the list of damaging pests, but they can cause aggravation when they target your yard trees or the siding of your home.
One of the easiest ways to deter porcupines is by using scent deterrents. Now, for a quick recap.
The six scents that porcupines hate include:
- Hot sauce
- Putrid egg solids
- Spearmint oil
Some of these scents work by being taste repellents, such as hot sauce, while others are so fragrant that they mask the scent of potential food, encouraging porcupines to look for food elsewhere.
Scent deterrents need to be reapplied often and are not a foolproof plan to keep porcupines away. You can combine scent deterrents with other, more long-term solutions to keep these quilled rodents deterred for good!
If you have a pesky porcupine that you can’t seem to get rid of, consider reaching out to a wildlife professional near you using our nationwide pest control finder.
Kuhns, M. R., Dettenmaier, M., & Tegt, J. (2019). Identifying and Preventing Porcupine Damage to Trees. All Current Publications, 2053.
Morin, P., Berteaux, D., & Klvana, I. (2005, October). Hierarchical habitat selection by North American porcupines in southern boreal forest. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 83(10), 1333-1342.
Wagner, K. K., & Nolte, D. L. (2000, Spring). Evaluation of Hot Sauce as a Repellent for Forest Mammals. Wildlife Society Bulletin (1973-2006), 28(1), 76-83.
Witmer, G. W., & Pipas, M. J. (1998). Porcupine Damage and Repellent Research In The Interior Pacific Northwest. Proceedings of the Eighteenth Vertebrate Pest Conference (1998), 23.
Woods, A. J., & Zeglen, S. (2003, October). Impact of feeding Damage by the porcupine on western hemlock – Sitka spruce forests of north-coastal British Columbia: 15-year results. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 33(10), 1983-1989.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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