How to live-trap a porcupine

There have been alot of porcupines in my yard this summer. A small one fed off the slugs and snails on the lettuce in my garden for awhile so I didn’t bother with him, thanked him in fact. Another, larger one, has been up in the pear trees. Then two weeks ago, Jem the dog who spends about a third of his life up here in the country (and the rest of his time in Toronto) came to visit. He’s a cross between a shepherd, doberman, husky and houndog so he sees it as his absolute job to secure the perimeter of the yard several times a day. Each time he gets out the door he bolts for the treeline in case there are any trespassing chipmunks. Well, a couple of days ago he met up with a porcupine.

Jem after meeting up with a porcupine

So, $113 later, spent at the vet to get the quills out, I decided I’d better trap and move the porcupine or it would likely happen again. Not all dogs learn the first (or second or third) time when they get hit by that feisty swinging barbed tail and I figured Jem would fall into that category. I already had a trap I’d bought a few years ago to try to control the groundhog population around my house. It’s made by Havahart – Caring Control for Small Animals ( and it’s sized for animals the size of racoons, groundhogs, skunks, porcupines, opossums and the like.

The trap has a trap door that’s sprung when the animal enters the cage and towards the back, steps on what’s called a trigger pan. Once the door is closed it’s impossible for the animal to get it open (very important!). I like this trap, it’s really easy to set, open, and carry. So, I set the trap out at dusk under the pear tree the porcupine had been up all day. Even though porcupines aren’t nocturnal, like raccoons, I decided I’d rather try to capture it at night so if it was in the cage for several hours it would be dark and cool. You don’t want to have an animal sit in one of those cages in the hot sun for several hours.

Trap set

For porcupines, the best bait is something covered in salt. I chose to cut up apple chunks and roll them in salt. Since porcupines feast every fall at the base of my apple tree, I know they like apple. You make a trail of the salt-covered apple chunks leading into the trap and put a few pieces at the back, behind the trigger pan because you want him to get in there at the back and step on the trigger pan, which springs the door closed.

Trapped porcupine

Sure enough, in the morning the porcupine was in the trap and waayyyy bigger than I thought he’d be. Every time I went close he got his back up and when I picked up the cage he’d get so big the quills came up right through the grill of the trap. So, I got a blanket and covered the trap which serves to both calm the animal and protect you from it. The trap has a good sized handle with a protector guard so it’s easy to pick it up and put it in your trunk or truck.

It’s important to decide ahead of time where you’re going to release the animal you’ve trapped and to really familiarize yourself with how to open the trap door once an animal is in there. It can suddenly seem a bit daunting to now have to deal with a wild animal who’s afraid and not happy about being in a cage in your trunk. I always have to deep breathe and talk myself through it because I still get nervous about it. In this case, I put on my gum boots and gloves before transporting the porcupine because even though you know a wild animal is going to bolt out the trap as soon as you open it, you just never know. But that’s what this guy did and I’ve never seen a porcupine climb a tree as fast as this one did.

One Response to “How to live-trap a porcupine”

  1. admin says:

    Here’s how I trapped and moved Porcupines. Get metal garbage can and spike it from inside out several times, for airflow. Also, tap a few holes in lid zaclee where handles are. Have two chunks each a meter long of rolled haywire in pocket. Go up to porky when you see it. Have straw broom in one hand, metal garbage can, with lid on in other. Porky will tuck into cleft in something, two small trees, a corner in porch, and turn back. As soon as you can, place garbage can over porky. Place one hand on bottom of garbage can, pressuring downward. Tail will still be outside can. Take broom and touch tail. Porky will snap tail inside. Tip can up ever so slightly and shove can lid under. Tip can right side up and wire lid on. Put can with porky in canoe. Take porky for a nice, calming canoe ride across lake. Take can w porky out the bow (they are heavy) and open slowly, tap on bottom of garbage can w canoe paddle while tipping porky out. Porky scoots up first available tree.

    Ken Belford, headwaters of the Nass River. BC

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