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Porcupine Wire - Myth or Necessity? #4461
Back To Discussion List Written: 2015.09.16 by: Robin Tivy

For about 20 years, in the East Kootenays, and Bugaboos many people surround their cars with a wire fence to keep porcupines away from chewing their tires and brake lines. Since it is awkward to carry around a large roll of chicken wire, I would like to gather information as to how necessary this is. The thought that you come out from a hike, and find your car disabled by porcupines is the type of story that would spread wildly over the years, even if very rare.

[photo]20150830_095529_PoprcupineWire.jpg[caption]August 30, 2015 Porcupine Wire on my car at Joffre Creek Trailhead in the
Rockies. Dan Richardson had the wire, so we figured we may as well use
it. But we'd like to know if it really was necessary[/photo]

Dan Richardson and I were talking about it, and figured we may as well use the Bivouac website to gather some information. So if you know firsthand of porcupines actually damaging a car, please make a posting on this discussion and give the date and location. I know that these days in the Bugaboos some other trailheads in the Rockies, people have left rolls of chicken wire for use by anyone. Of course you may as well use them. But what about other trailheads? Do you really have to carry a roll of chicken wire every where you go?

For example, we recently saw a car completely wrapped up with a tarp on the Downton Creek road (near Lillooet).
Someone's car wrapped with Tarp at Downton Creek on August 3, 2015


#6271 - 2018.06.08 Devin McKay - Bear barrel chewed by porcupine
Couple of years hiking buddy and I had our bear barrels chewed up by a porcupine. It didn't get in fortunately,but those barrels needed replacement. We were on the Wokkpash trail. Come to think of it, I remember reading about someone on the same trail being woken in the night by a porcupine dragging his stove away. On that same trip our cook area was surrounded by almost fearless marmots who tried to make off with anything they could grab.

#6116 - 2017.08.24 Robin Tivy - ICBC Insurance for Porcupine Tire Damage
We have ICBC comprehensive insurance with a $300 deductable. The tires that were on my car were just inexpensive Canadian Tire Motomaster tires. The ones I replaced them with were also low priced Canadian Tire tires, and on sale. The new tires cost 672.15 for a set of 4 mud and snow tires.

ICBC is very strict about tire claims. The guy I dealt with was probably used to dealing with all sorts of crooks trying to get new tires. You MUST have a photo of the tire damage and you must submit a good copy of the invoice They also want the tire place to give them a tread depth wear reading. I wasn't very well prepared. I had not taken photos of the tires, and my photo of the invoice was not readable, and I hadn't thought of asking for a "tread depth" statement. Fortunately the guy I dealt with at Canadian Tire in Smithers was really great. His name was Ryder. He still had the photos when I phoned back from Vancouver a couple of weeks later. He took photos and he measured the tread depth wear, and also forwarded a copy of the invoice to ICBC. The ICBC guy called Rob told me he said there was 40% wear, which he would call 15% so the depreciation was 78.00. So here's what I get:

  New Tires 672.00
  less Depreciation 70.00
  less deductable 300.00
  ICBC check 294.04
Obviously, if you had expensive tires with minimal wear, and a lower deductable, the insurance would be worth considerably more. The other cost was the towing on a flatbed truck. Fortunately we were covered by BCAA Plus, so that was 100% convered.

#6114 - 2017.08.15 Steve Grant - Insurance?
Will your comprehensive cover it?

#6113 - 2017.08.13 Robin Tivy - Porcupine chews 3 tires, perhaps road salt?
I just completed some unfortunate research into the subject. Porcupines eating tires is not a myth. Betsy and I did an overnight hike to Silvern Lakes, near Smithers BC. It is a well used trailhead, although perhaps not as much for overnight. When we came out from our hike, three of our four tires were chewed flat. Each was punctured by several little holes in one place on the sidewall. The puncture was at the top of each tire. So the porcupine chewed thru tire one, was hit by the escaping air, then went to tire two, and so on? Or a gang of porcupines?

Fortunately we met one other person in the alpine who told us our tires were flat. His name was Kyler Hardy and he gave us a ride back to town. So at the trailhead, we pulled a few essentials out of our car and got into his open Jeep and drove at high speed the 20 km back to Smithers. He phoned a towing company for us, and they sent out a flatbed truck and picked up the car and dumped it at Canadian Tire. He sent the towing bill to BCAA (we have BCAA plus). We walked to Safeway to the deli section and bought dinner and some food for breakfast, then walked back to the Smithers municipal campsite, about 2 km where we set up our tent. Next day we walked back up to town to Canadian Tire, and bought some new tires. It was Sunday, but they installed them by closing time at 5:00 PM.

Now the analysis. No one around Smithers had ever heard of a porcupine flattening tires. No one had ever heard of putting wire around cars like in the distant Kootenays. And they do lots of hiking around here. However Kyler said that years ago, he had seen that a lot of the so called "beetle kill" was in fact porcupines ringing the bark off trees in the area we were in. But he was pretty sure it was only up that valley that they were a problem.

What are they after? Perhaps salt. The only way to get to the Donnelly Lakes FSR is by driving for about 9 km on the Hudson Bay ski area road. It had been heavily sprayed with Calcium chloride (salt) to keep the dust down. We had driven up and down the entire Hudson Bay road the day before to climb the south peak of Hudson Bay mountain. And then driven on it again the next morning to get to Silvern Lakes. The whole road appeared wet, as if a water truck had just gone past. And Tyler had told me this is the first year they have been doing that dust control. So perhaps the porcupines like the salt?

So my complete theory is that due to the unusual hot weather, there has been a lot of Calcium Chloride used this year. So is this just the first report? Should we immediately try and buy a roll of chicken wire for our next trip into the Telkwa range near Houston BC? The guy who sold me the new tires included the $10/tire "all hazards" insurance which covers me for 5 years. He said he asked his boss who said it would cover anything, even porcupine damage (which they had never heard of). So we'll see - keep posted.

#1839 - 2016.08.19 Sean Eaton - No porcupines for me...
...but I have encountered meddlesome mice (voles?) while parked at the Joffre Lakes trailhead. After returning from overnighting at the lake I started my car and then turned on my air circulation fan. I heard a clunk, similar to what Robin encountered, and then bits of moss began blowing into my car. A service tech was eventually able to pull out a couple handfuls of moss from inside the air ducts. I've seen these rodents at other times while sleeping in my car at the same trailhead. They are incredibly tiny (the body is maybe 2" long). They seem to enjoy chasing one another across my windshield by moonlight.

#1838 - 2016.08.17 Justin Vance - they will get through
A few years ago I was sleeping in the back of my truck at Gibson lake(Kokanee Glacier). I was woken up by sounds that seemed to be coming from under my unprotected truck. I got up to investigate. Finding nothing under my truck I looked under the vehicle next to me and found a large porcupine chewing away. This car had surrounding it one of the best if not the best chicken wire wrap I have ever seen. My truck had nothing around it and others had marginal protection. I found a stick to try and get the porcupine to move on but he didn't want to leave and nothing I did convinced him. The next day I told some ladies I met on the trail to check their brakes in lou of the porcupine. They told me they had thoroughly protected their car. I asked what their car looked like and they described the car with the porcupine under it. I still wrap my truck when wire is available but after that night I don't think it really matters. If they want in they will get in.

#1816 - 2015.09.30 Chris Nott - What are the animals after?
Does anyone know what the animals (porcupines, marmots, mice, etc) might be after? If it is salt, would it make sense to bring along a small salt lick and place it close enough to the vehicle that the animals encounter it but far enough not to associate it with the vehicle? Alternately, is there a chemical deterrent that could be used on the vehicle or surrounding ground?

#1815 - 2015.09.29 Mike Wickett - Marmots at Downton
Probably 5 or 6 years ago our party ended up driving young couple back to Lilooet to procure a tow truck to rescue their vehicle from the Downton parking area due to Marmots chewing the electrical wiring under the vehicle. The young man contacted us afterwards and informed us the tow and wire fix had cost him almost $1500. Also, just a couple weeks ago I was up at Semaphore with my nephew only to find some Kleenex shredded on the floor of our X-trail and a bunch of mouse poop distributed about the vehicle. Since the Downton incident, I religiously employ the chicken wire.

#1813 - 2015.09.18 Dean Richards - KMC Feedback
I posted a thread on the the Kootenay Mountaineering Club's Facebook page. Sandra says she's had their truck chewed numerous times. Someone said it happened to them in the Cariboos. A Park Ranger had it happen only once in all his time. A regional wildlife biologist, and several others speculate that the porcupine population has gone down over the past 50 years and that it used to be more of a problem. Numerous people commenting that they hadn't seen a porcupine in a decade or more, though I've seen several this summer, and several others who have never used the wire and never had problems. I should've had people specify whether they are mostly doing daytrips, since it seems as though they're more nocturnal critters.

I did some reading up and responding with this long post:

"I just did some reading on porcupines and it appears that they generally stick quite close to their dens, so it makes sense that some parking areas (official or otherwise) would get hit a lot more than others and that this could change year to year. They also feed on certain conifers (Hemlock, Ponderosa Pine, and Doug Fir especially), so deciduous forests might also be less frequented. Second growth seem to be preferred, which is of course where all the logging roads are, especially as we're often parking in cutblocks. Recently burned areas are also preferred apparently. Population fluctuations over long periods are suggested, but there also seems like a decade or two after an area has been logged is prime habitat.

So it looks like we've got a working hypothesis here: Porcupines have definitely chewed on vehicles. Their populations are spread out and localized. Some areas are likely to have a lot more porcupines than others.

Now I suspect that a great deal of the awareness of the porcupine threat comes from people being exposed to the chicken wire at places like Kokanee and the Bugaboos. There'll be a sign with a vague warning, and so people follow suit and the practice multiplies, but not through an actual word-of-mouth passing on of experiences, but more in a copycat way. There being chickenwire provided doesn't really tell me much about the actual risk (see also: boil water advisories at campgrounds). The liability and economy of scale would seem to outweigh concerns of the actual risk. This does still beg the question though: Is the risk higher in remote areas, or in heavily trafficked areas?

Still, since a number of people on here have had vehicles chewed, it seems like this definitely isn't just an old wives tale.

Really, the practical issue here is whether or not to buy chicken wire for your vehicle and pack it along when you're parking overnight in areas where it isn't supplied. I bought a roll for $20, so the price isn't so much the issue. The perceived hassle might be an obstacle for people, but having enough space in a vehicle is probably the least surmountable obstacle, for those with smaller vehicles.

The other practical issue, which I've faced twice this summer is if you forget the chicken wire, should you be worried you'll have to walk 30km back to a road and thumb a ride home if you're vehicle is disabled.

First, unless it's an area of known recent porcupine 'attacks', it's probably just not worth worrying about if you forget it once or twice, or are just visiting the Kootenays for a week (for example). For those of us who get out multiple times each summer, the choice of whether to buy and pack chicken wire joins a list of other issues where there's a dabbler and an enthusiast divide. Bear food safety, water purification, leave no trace ethics, etc.

Second, as I had a combined 8 or so days to ponder the state of our vehicle upon return, I thought about the possible scenarios. Flat tires and chewed brakelines. I hadn't thought of electrical, so I suppose that adds another element, but most people pack spare tires, so it's the brakes that would be the concern. It would certainly be most unfortunate to have to replace brake lines and have brake fluid spilled everywhere, so there is perhaps an ethical concern there, but I for one would certainly try to hobble down a mountainside just using a parking brake. Maybe that's cold comfort though. In the end though, I've convinced myself that forgetting chicken wire or not using it once or twice a year probably isn't worth stressing over. That being said, I'll plan on bringing mine along now that I've got it!

The only question not touched on here is whether or not the Kootenays has a higher risk than say, the coast. Porcupine populations were specifically mentioned in the document I read, but that was for the north coast. Also, there's no porcupines on Vancouver Island!"

#1811 - 2015.09.17 Robin Tivy - Mouse on Rainbow trip
Simon's posting reminded me of the only animal incident I've had in 30 years. That was in 2004, we left my old Subaru parked at the Heckman Pass trailhead for our 14 day trip into the Rainbow range. When I returned, and started the car, the fan made quite a noise, and there was a smell. I think a mouse had climbed into the fan housing or something. I never did anything to fix it, and gradually over time, there was less noise.

#1810 - 2015.09.17 Simon Chesterton - Downton Creek
Last year, I parked by the small pond near the end of Downton Creek FSR and we noticed marmots in the area. When we came back from Nraiteskel Peak there were paw prints all over the vehicle and when I started it the ABS and 4WD warning lights came on. Vehicle was okay to drive (no leaks etc.) but an inspection at the dealership revealed chewed wiring near the rear bumper area under the vehicle which had disabled the ABS and 4WD systems. This was written into the trip report I did on so people may have taken precautions (another post had reported a mouse building a nest in the engine compartment at the Holly Lake Trailhead).

This year after visiting the same area I discovered a chewed through windshield washer spray line (probably a mouse) and some firewall insulation had been chewed at too.