Porcupine diet is based solely on plants and this can mean big trouble for landscaping plants and backyard gardens.
As plant eaters, the porcupine diet has great diversity, yet the animal is very much a slave to the seasonal changes in the food supply in the area in which they. In the spring, summer and fall all is well with respect to food supply. They will feed on the buds of trees such as the sugar maple in the spring. Conversely, once the sugar maples leaf out, the porcupine moves onto other fare due to the fact that the leaves contain tannin, a substance that is toxic to the porcupine diet. They move onto the cambium layers under the bark of beech, basswoods and aspens and the leaves of trees that contain lower levels of tannin such as the ash trees.
In the fall feeding switches over to acorns and pine nuts they gather from high up in the trees.
In the winter, porcupines are more limited and forced to eat more bark. They will partake in the bark of sugar maples, ponderosa pines, and hemlocks as well as pine needles.
In your yard they will quite happily feed on raspberry canes, strawberry patches, brussel sprouts, cabbages, geraniums and roses, carrots, potatoes and virtually all root vegetables, from the top down! Ornamental grasses are no match for the appetite of the porcupines either. Neither are flowering herbs and apples.
Porcupine Diet-Physical Attributes
While porcupines vary in many ways from the other members of the rodent family, they have one very important trait in common; ever growing incisors. These large front teeth make easy eating for the porcupine diet in the winter. This includes tree bark and branches, and even canoe paddles and axe handles!
Porcupine Diet-Benefits and Detriments to Humans and the Ecosystem
The porcupine diet does cause some issues for humans. The herbivore diet of the animals leaves a distinct and sometimes unrivaled craving for salt. And since potato chips and French fries are not available to the animals in the wild, they have found some curious ways of soothing that craving. Many homeowners have awakened to find their car tires, that have road salt on them, have been chewed leaving a very expensive wake up call! Salt cravings lead the animals to eat anything made of plywood that has salt residues from us too including canoe paddles, axe handles and horse saddles!
Experts also indicate that their gnawing on trees leads to such uneven growth that the end use timber is too distorted to harvest causing a negative impact on the timber industry. The damage inflicted to the trees by their bark chewing allows for the trees to become easy prey for attack from birds and insects, and most seriously, diseases.
For the home gardener a hungry porcupine can lead to the loss of entire strawberry patches and rows, eating their leaves over the fruit. Raspberry canes are often dwarfed making harvesting quarts of juicy berries improbable.
It is indeed the trees that are deformed and left vulnerable to disease and infestation that is by far the most detrimental factor of the porcupine diet.