It’s true. Nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) sightings in Western North Carolina are on the increase. The first confirmed report of an armadillo in Buncombe County was near Leicester in July 2014; since then, there have been more than 30 sightings. Now researchers are finding evidence that armadillos are surviving to breed and establish populations in WNC.
Armadillo origins and behavior
Native to Central and South America, armadillos have spread or been illegally introduced into the southeastern United States. Most are moving into NC from populations in Tennessee and Georgia.
These unusual mammals are possum-sized, but hairless with “shells” like turtles. They prefer to burrow in moist soils and seek shelter in brushy areas. Their range is measured in acres. Drivers often kill armadillos crossing roads because startled animals can jump 3 to 5 feet straight up, making them difficult to avoid.
Although many think of armadillos as nocturnal animals, they are less active in extreme temperatures, and you may see them foraging during the day. Their diet is mostly insects and their larvae, but they may eat small reptiles, amphibians, the eggs of ground-nesting birds, as well as some fruits and roots.
Armadillos can produce one litter of identical quadruplets a year. Black bears, bobcats, coyotes, dogs, and feral hogs are armadillo predators.
What’s the problem?
Although armadillos eat insects, they are considered exotic invasive pests!
- They dig burrows for shelter and make cone-shaped holes searching for food, potentially damaging everything from vegetable and flower gardens to lawns and tree roots.
- Burrow entrances have openings 7 to 10 inches wide.
- Foraging holes are 3 to 5 inches wide and 1 to 3 inches deep.
- In addition to landscapes, armadillos can sometimes damage ground-nesting bird habitats, as well as human constructions, such as driveways and foundations.
- Some armadillos carry leprosy and in rare instances can spread it to humans. Always avoid contact with live animals and wear gloves if you must dispose of dead armadillos!
Removing brush piles, stone piles, and tall grasses that provide cover may make your yard a less attractive home for armadillos. Unfortunately, there are no proven armadillo repellents, and keeping armadillos out of your landscape can be a formidable task! Setting up an electric fence with a strand a few inches off the ground may work, but for conventional fencing, you’ll need to bury barriers up to 2 feet deep and make sure they are 3 feet tall or slant outward at a 40-degree angle to be effective.
The NC Wildlife Commission regulates armadillo control (https://www.ncwildlife.org/Learning/Species/Mammals/Armadillo#24951639-regulations):
Trapping. If armadillos are damaging your property, you can legally trap them from November 1 through the end of February—or at other times if you have a depredation permit. You don’t need to bait traps—using boards or other barriers to funnel the animal into the trap makes trapping easier.
Shooting. It is legal to hunt armadillos year-round if they are causing damage—although there may be restrictions on where shooting is permitted!
NOTE: IN NC IT IS ILLEGAL TO POISON OR RELOCATE ARMADILLOS!
Consider hiring a professional wildlife or pest control agent if you do not want to take responsibility for killing and disposing of these pests.
Report any sightings
If you see Armadillos anywhere in North Carolina, report them (see how in the links below)! Take pictures if it is safe to do so and be sure to note the date and location.
Article written by Debbie Green, Extension Master GardenerSM Volunteer.
For more information:
Armadillo profile: https://www.ncwildlife.org/Portals/0/Learning/documents/Profiles/Mammals/Armadillo-Profile.pdf