How do you stop porcupines from eating plywood buildings?—Craig Loucao

It’s not easy. Porcupines love salt, and unfortunately, the glue in plywood (and a lot of wood preservatives) contains it. Along with wooden buildings, porkies also enjoy the salt in fence posts coated in creosote, on car tires and radiator hoses, and from objects covered in human sweat (tool handles, clothes, and leather). Yummy! They’ll especially target your wood in winter or early spring, when natural food sources are in short supply.

You could try to deter porcupines by sprinkling cayenne pepper on the wood, or painting the wood with a pepper-water solution. You’d need to reapply this every time it rained, though. Other options may work—distracting the porcupines with a salt lick, or startling them with random, irritating noises—but there are drawbacks: The salt lick could attract other wildlife; the random, irritating noises could drive away your cottage guests.

If you’re concerned about damage when you leave your cottage unattended (say, over the winter), one option is to surround your buildings with a perimeter of unsupported chicken wire. Porcupines have trouble climbing this flimsy barrier because they’re too heavy. (They should probably lay off the salt.)