The nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), named for the nine breaks in the leathery armor that allow it to flex its stiff hide, is an odd-looking mammal about the size of a cat. A mature armadillo is 15 to 17 inches long (not counting the tail) with a weight of 8 to 17 pounds.
This native mammal of southwestern North America has expanded its range into Florida. Introductions of armadillos also occurred along the east coast of Florida as early as the 1920s and in southern Alabama in the 1960s. Armadillos are now common throughout most of the state and are considered to be naturalized. Armadillos prefer forested or semi-open habitats with loose textured soil that allows them to dig easily. They eat many insects, other invertebrates, and plants. They are most active at night, and have very poor eyesight.
Armadillos can carry diseases such as St. Louis encephalitis, leptospires, arboviruses, and leprosy. The Florida Department of Health is an excellent resource for learning more about these diseases.
Armadillos dig burrows for their homes or to escape predators, and a single armadillo can have several different burrows with multiple entrances. Pregnant females always give birth to identical quadruplets. She produces one egg that splits into four identical offspring that are either all female or all male. This trait differs from most other mammals.
Armadillos are fascinating in other respects. When they need to cross narrow water bodies, they often walk on the bottom underwater. If it is a wide body of water, they will inflate their stomach to twice its normal size, allowing for enough buoyancy to swim across. When startled, armadillos often leap high into the air, and then run quickly to a nearby burrow.
Problems with armadillos:
Armadillos prolific rooting and burrowing can damage lawns and flower-beds. To reduce armadillo damage to your lawn, keep watering and fertilization to a minimum. Moist soil and lush vegetation bring earth worms and insect larvae to the surface of the soil. Armadillos can sometimes be enticed to move on by watering areas adjacent to the damage site. Also, watering gardens in the morning is preferable since the soil can dry out in the afternoon and not be as easily detected by noctournal armadillos. Armadillos can be excluded from small areas with extensive damage by using fencing at least 2 feet high and with an apron buried at least 18 inches deep. Armadillos are also particularly attracted to fermenting fruit. Remove fallen fruit to avoid attracting unwelcome wildlife.
Have an armadillo burrow under your house or in your yard?
Harassing burrows causes animals to feel unsafe and can convince them to relocate on their own without additional intensive and sometimes expensive eradication efforts. Illuminate burrows with a bright spotlight or flashlight and/or put a radio in or near the hole, without blocking the animal from exiting.
It is lawful for a landowner to live-trap or humanely destroy nuisance armadillos, although they are difficult to capture with live traps. All live-captured nuisance armadillos must be euthanized, released on-site, or released on a property within the same county of capture, that is 40 acres or larger with written permission from the landowner. However, relocating wildlife is seldom biologically sound and the animal often does not survive. Captured non-target species are required to be released on site.
You can receive technical assistance for armadillo problems by contacting your nearest FWC regional office.
Image Credit: Karen Parker