I live in Montana, where a lot of cattle farmers frequently kill porcupines - the cows sniff them, and inevitably end up with a face full of quills.
I've always been fiercely defensive of these little guys, and often get into it when they come up in conversation with local ranchers. The way I see it, the little critters are just trying to live, and it's not their fault that these guys put their ranches right on their habitat.
So what are your permaculture solutions to handling porcupines, in whatever manner they might cause trouble on your property?
^^ Adorable porcupine video, for your viewing pleasure.
I'm not sure, but I think you already mentioned the permaculture approach in your post: habitat. If they would have enough space probably they won't bother the cows or anything else? Many problems like this arise because we humans insist on using all space we have for our needs. So we end up in conflict with other life as a predictable result.
Porcupines are hell on trees: they love to eat the bark. They'll girdle a young tree in a night.
But they are actually quite tasty. There is a lot of fat on them, particularly in the winter, but they make a nice stew. So my permie solution would be to eat them before they eat your fruit trees.
"The rule of no realm is mine. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, these are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail in my task if anything that passes through this night can still grow fairer or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I too am a steward. Did you not know?" Gandolf
It really breaks my heart, they're such gentle and docile creatures, and I hate that just their presence is enough for people to want to shoot them and run them over. I feel like this is a tough love scenario though, porcupines aren't deadly, they just hurt, and I imagine the first time an animal gets too close it will be their last - sort of a learning the hard way solution.
I'm not a rancher, but if I was, this would be the approach I would take, aside of course from creating porcupine sanctuary areas to keep them out of the paths of livestock - their favorite habitat and food in a section of the property maybe?
A big part of what likely draws porcupines to ranches is mineral blocks left for cattle. Salt licks are extremely enticing for them. They are even known to gnaw on road salt.
So one of the first things to consider for ranchers or permies, is if salt for your livestock is drawing them into your property.
"Where will you drive your own picket stake? Where will you choose to make your stand? Give me a threshold, a specific point at which you will finally stop running, at which you will finally fight back." (Derrick Jensen)
The rancher attitude that whatever is for direct benefit to humans takes precedence over any other consideration has led to the extirpation and extinction of countless species. Those who do not share the rancher ethos are called "naive" and unrealistic, even though this attitude that everything in conflict with direct human interest must die is pretty much killing the planet, and will ultimately lead to our own extinction.
Other than having to corner a dog and take quills out, I'm afraid ones I've come across have ended up in the pot.
I do bribe the vet and gave him an ice cream pail with lid, he saves ones he takes out of dogs and I clean them up and if they're not broken use them for quillwork and making seed bead earrings. They are hollow and wonderfully light weight.
They WILL destroy young trees in nothing flat.
Deer and Antelope are drawn to mineral/salt blocks for cattle as well. I know those blocks cost, but maybe tossing one outside the fenceline in the brush might help keep the porcupines OUT of the pasture, range, grassland....
I should mention that dogs who have been "quilled" severely enough may have to be put to sleep. Our rancher neighbor across the road lost at least one dog this way, because he let the dogs run loose at night. Porcupines are no joke - we fear them more than any other wild animal here. They move in an intriguing way which is bound to make a dog want to investigate. We've seen them around, but not right near fenced house area where our dog patrols. We bring her in as soon as it gets dark.
The only semi-permaculture acceptable answer is to fence them out. My answer is not permaculture in this case I follow the same rule with them I follow with rattlesnakes. If they are in my primary habitation surrounding then I kill it. If they are away from my area then I simply ignore them and move on under most circumstances. Figuring I am breeding for animals that stay away from places where people are regularly. The exception is if they are interfering with work. For example the snake under the swather I need to work on that I can't move.
Porcupines *do* have a natural predator in the fisher, which possesses an enzyme in its system that dissolves quills. Truebeans. Unfortunately, like so many other US species with a beautiful winter coat, they have been decimated in many or most areas.
Our homestead is in the high, remote area of Western Colorado and we have plenty of the quilled rodents. But they give us relatively little trouble. There is, however, vast habitat open to them surrounding our inholding within National Forest lands.
A good, sensible dog is a must in areas with high porcupine populations. They discourage them from coming in close enough to expose our farm animals. Our experience has been that a young or clueless dog will get too close only once, never again. When this has happened, 2 or 3 times over 30+ years, we've been able to remove quills ourselves and have had no eye or other permanent injuries. This year, two young Morgans had a "quilling"...but again, we were able to remove the quills alright ourselves.
We put out water for them in zone 1. We also offer food and shelter in other zones. While we do not see them except on game cameras, one got into the Monarch Garden. It was identified by its tracks, it did a little dirt digging so we put up a small fence.
Invasive plants are Earth's way of insisting we notice her medicines. Stephen Herrod Buhner
Everyone learns what works by learning what doesn't work. Stephen Herrod Buhner
Diego Footer on Permaculture Based Homesteads - from the Eat Your Dirt Summit