Keeping Tabs on Armadillos

Originally confined to the south, the nine-banded armadillo has been spotted as far north as Wisconsin and as far east as North Carolina.

Originally confined to the south, the nine-banded armadillo has been spotted as far north as Wisconsin and as far east as North Carolina. Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

State officials are monitoring populations of the nine-banded armadillo, a non-native species that's spreading quickly throughout the country.

Should the problem arise, here’s one way to remove an armadillo from your yard: grab the tail and pick it up.

“But you have to do it carefully,” cautioned Whit Gibbons, a professor emeritus of ecology at the University of Georgia. “I had to take my grandson to emergency care because he picked an armadillo up the wrong way. They can scratch you with their back feet. I don’t think it’s intentional—the armadillo is just trying to get away. Also, I want to make it clear I am not advocating this.”

Depending on where you live, this may be relevant advice. Once confined to certain southern states, the nine-banded armadillo is spreading rapidly across the country, with sightings as far north as Wisconsin and as far east as North Carolina. Researchers can’t pinpoint a reason for the expansion, though it’s generally accepted that climate change and deforestation may have aided the rise of the species.

“The habitat has changed vastly,” said Colleen Olfenbuttel, a biologist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. “Up until the early 1900s, a lot of the United States was forested and as European settlers, including farmers, started to clear the land, they actually created habitat for armadillos. They really thrive in secondary-growth areas, where saplings, scrubs and brushes are starting to come up.”

As non-native species go, the nine-banded armadillo is relatively harmless. Technically a mammal and covered in distinctive, scaly plates, the armadillo feasts mostly on insects (grubs, maggots and worms). They’re nearsighted, and dig burrows to hunt for food and to seek shelter from predators and cold weather. Because of that, most complaints that wildlife agencies receive about armadillos come from homeowners who are concerned about property damage.

“They will dig up a garden, and that’s why people consider them a pest—because they’ll dig these burrows in yards,” Gibbons said. “They go all the way in and make it wide enough so they can turn around. And they won’t stay there their whole life—they’ll move around and dig another burrow somewhere else.”

Armadillos can carry the bacteria that causes leprosy in humans, but the risk of contracting the disease is low and requires repeated contact with an infected animal. Because of that, state officials by and large aren’t concerned about the influx of armadillos, though most try to keep tabs on emerging populations.

In North Carolina, the Wildlife Resources Commission asks residents to report their sightings, preferably by email or online through the N.C. Armadillo Project, a crowd-sourced observation map that launched last spring. Residents are encouraged to log the details of their armadillo sighting and, if possible, include a photo. Most observations don’t come with photos and the majority of the ones that do are pictures of roadkill, some of them graphic, Olfenbuttel said.

“Those reports are still important, though, because it gives us the opportunity to send someone out there to confirm that it actually is an armadillo,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s actually a dead turtle.”

Live sightings are rarer, but also helpful, particularly if the person can report the type of behavior they observed. (Mostly, Olfenbuttel said, “they’re just wandering around.”)

Sightings are logged in a spreadsheet and classified as confirmed (photo evidence), credible (no picture, but the description is detailed or can be corroborated by another report) and unconfirmed (no picture, no other reports in that area). 

Researchers use that data to track the armadillos’ march through the state, noting how the mammals are traveling and if populations are becoming established in new locations. Knowing the approximate locations of groups of armadillos is helpful for outreach purposes, particularly when residents experience what Olfenbuttel refers to as “conflicts” with the animals.

“We can say with certainty, ‘No, there aren’t armadillos in your area, so the damage to your property was caused by something else,’” she said. “Or we can say, ‘Yep, armadillos are here, and if you are having conflicts with armadillos, here are some things you can do to address those conflicts.’”

Armadillos are difficult to trap—because they dine mostly on bugs, it’s difficult to entice them with bait—so North Carolina authorizes a year-round hunting season on the animals, though so far there have been no confirmed reports of any being shot. Beyond grabbing one by the tail and flinging it out of the yard, there’s no real way to remove them, Gibbons said, though it’s likely they won’t stay very long anyway.

“We had one in our yard here where we live, and I just said, ‘We’ll wait,’ and a week later it was gone over into my neighbor’s yard,” he said. “That’s what you do.”

There’s no known effort to halt the spread or remove new state populations of armadillos, Gibbons said. But they’re still novel enough that researchers tend to get phone calls when the critters mosey into new places.

“It’s odd to me and it’s amazing—I get two to three phone calls about armadillos every week now,” Gibbons said. “They are a very peculiar animal and I really don’t know what else to say about them.”

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

FEATURED CASE STUDIES
Powered By The Atlas
New Parking Plaza Adds Capacity & Embraces Sustainability at San Diego Airport
San Diego, CA, USA
Strategic Energy Plan & Energy Efficiency Projects Help Manage San Diego Airport Energy Resources
San Diego, CA, USA
Integrating Complete and Green Streets for Climate-Resilient Sustainable Streets
San Mateo County, CA, USA

NEXT STORY: Federal Judge Puts Michigan's New Gay Adoption Rules On Hold

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.