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Bountiful Apple Crop A Double-edged Sword When It Comes To Porcupines

11-5-15 apples and porcupines 011The outstanding apple crop this year bodes well for the fecundity of the white-tailed deer, mouse, black bear, raccoon, wild turkey and porcupine populations this coming year. There are other more subtle ramifications of this year’s bountiful soft mast production, however, one of which is an increase in porcupine salt-seeking behavior.

Porcupines are avid consumers of apples. Typically, the supply of apples is depleted by the end of August, when porcupines move on to beechnuts and acorns. However, this year the apple crop was so plentiful that many apple trees still bear fruit and will provide sustenance for wildlife well into the winter. High in carbohydrates, apples help porcupines gain the extra weight necessary to help them survive through the winter months.

That said, apples have a relatively low pH and are acidic, some varieties more than others. Porcupines prefer the less acidic apples, but even these contain several hundred times more organic acid than other food, such as poplar or basswood leaves, that porcupines consume in the summer. High acid intake impairs sodium resorption in mammalian kidneys, causing porcupines to lose sodium in their urine. Consequently, as a result of a high proportion of apples in their diet, porcupines seek extra sodium. While they find salt in aquatic plants, insects, animal bones and outer bark, porcupines are also drawn to plywood, car tires, outhouses, sweat-soaked tool handles and other human-related sources of sodium. This would be a good year to make sure your hammers, hoes, rakes and shovels are well out of the reach of quill pigs. (Insert shows porcupine incisor grooves in flesh of apple. Porcupines often leave cores, avoiding eating the cyanide-rich apple seeds.)

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7 responses

  1. Cindy

    Not sure if this is true, but I read somewhere if you are having these sorts of troubles with porcupines, pour salt on stumps you want to get rid of anyway. Win-win!

    November 5, 2015 at 8:20 am

  2. John Snell

    Fascinating! I find it so easy to simplify life when, in fact, it is much more complex. There must be a way of appreciating both the simplicity and the complexity! Thanks so much for your continuing great work.

    I have thought of you these past few late afternoons when the air seems full of little blue insects, probably smoky-winged ash aphids, Prociphilus americanus?

    All the best to you on yet another surprisingly warm day!


    November 5, 2015 at 8:37 am

    • Hi John,
      I’ve had a couple of other inquires about the insect hatches…I think you know more about them than I, by far. Have yet to see them here. Thank you so much for your kind words. I am in awe of your photography and commentaries.

      November 6, 2015 at 8:00 pm

  3. Grace Lambert

    Would it be a good thing to place salt blocks out? The kind you can buy in a feed store?

    November 5, 2015 at 9:48 am

    • I feel strongly about not interfering in the natural order of things if at all possible…much as porcupines, deer, etc. would find a salt lick appealing.

      November 5, 2015 at 1:08 pm

  4. Rebecca Weil

    Mary, this was a fabulous post! Great information. Thank you!!! Rebecca Weil

    Sent from my iPhone


    November 5, 2015 at 10:54 am

  5. Ruth

    Do doctors know this? Is adding acid good for reducing salt in people? I wonder

    November 5, 2015 at 3:43 pm

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