Wildlife: Armadillos

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Nine-Banded Armadillo

Most people do not realize that this tiny tank is indeed a mammal, of the primitive order Endentata. Its closest relatives include anteaters, sloths, and other species of armadillos, all in the sub-order Xenarthra but, except for the Nine-Banded Armadillo, all located in Central and South America.

The shell of the nine-banded armadillo is divided into three main sections, with 7-10 telescoping bands connecting the front and back. Armadillos are primarily nocturnal and insectivorous, meaning they hunt at night for grubs, beetles, snails, termites, ants, and other insects (though they will eat berries and other plants as well). To find their prey, they dig in the soil with their strong claws and use their keen sense of smell. They forage for food constantly and are by no means stealthy about it. They can often be heard snuffling, digging, and shuffling through the underbrush. It is this foraging activity that generally brings them into conflict with humans, since they do not discriminate between human gardens and wild fields, often digging unsightly holes to trap insects. You can get more advice about how to deal with digging creatures on our website>mammals>armadillos>Some animal is digging in my yard!

Though their sense of smell is excellent, armadillos are famously near-sighted. When startled, they jump straight into the air before running away. They will also stand on their hind legs, using their tails for balance, and sniff the air for danger.

Their heavy shells also make them poor swimmers; however, they have been known to walk across the bottom of a body of water. They can also gulp air to inflate their stomach and intestines and give them additional buoyancy for swimming across deeper streams.

Armadillos live in burrows and they often dig multiple “homes”, some of which they later abandon. These empty burrows then become residences for opossums, rabbits, skunks, burrowing owls, and other critters.

Armadillos generally breed in the Fall and give birth in the Spring to four identical quadruplets (all the same sex). The quadruplets remain in the burrow for about three months, then forage with Mom until they are between six months and a year old.

Nine-banded armadillos are the only other known animal (in addition to humans) to carry the bacteria responsible for Hansen’s Disease, or leprosy. However, it is important to note that your risk of contracting leprosy from an armadillo is extremely low. Around 95% of the human population is genetically immune to leprosy. The bacteria itself is infamously fragile and difficult to transmit. That’s why only two species on Earth are carriers. According to the National Library of Medicine, only about 100 Americans a year contract leprosy, generally from traveling to countries where the disease is more common. Leprosy is also highly treatable with antibiotics. So, while humans should avoid contact and consumption of armadillos, we also shouldn’t be afraid of these curiously adorable critters.

Armadillos are important to their ecosystems as they help to control insect populations and their old burrows provide homes for other Lone Star animals like burrowing owls and rabbits. Call us or check our FAQs if you need help dealing with Dillos!

Credit to Alexis Ackel for writing this article.

Please reference our “Quick Tips” located in the upper right corner of our website for instructions on containing, transporting, providing life saving heat, and finding a wildlife rehabilitator.

Skunk, opossum, raccoon, or armadillo enjoy dining on grub worms.  Digging activity is usually noticed after a lot of rain or overwatering from a sprinkler system.  The moisture causes the grubs to rise to the surface.  Wildlife eating grubs is beneficial and is free pest control.   Once the grubs are eaten the wildlife will continue their journey.  Patience and tolerance are recommended.

To Encourage the Wildlife to Move Sooner, adopt these changes to your lawn maintenance.

Practice deep watering of your lawn especially in August. The grub eggs require frequent moisture to hatch.  By limiting the frequency of watering, the moisture reduction will reduce the number of eggs hatching.

In late spring to early summer, reduce outdoor lighting which attracts the June bug and other beetles.  This may reduce egg laying in your yard.

Do not cut your lawn short as this makes a more attractive site for laying eggs.  Let it remain taller.

Over seed your lawn in the spring and fall.  A thick lawn is too dense to accommodate the beetles.

Use an eco-friendly fertilizer for your lawn in the spring and fall.  A healthy lawn is more resistant to pests. A good comparison with tips at this site:  http://www.greenhome.com/blog/cut-the-crap-making-your-own-eco-friendly-fertilizer-is-easier-than-you-think

Attract birds to your yard that may dine on grub worms and other insects.

These Products are Recommended for the Treatment of Grubs.

Your purchase through our product page supports the DFW Wildlife Coalition Hotline.  

Mix 1 cup Castor oil, 1 cup liquid dish soap, and 1-gallon of water.  Put in a garden sprayer and spray the area of concern. You will need to respray as needed due to rain or sprinkler system.

One longer-term solution is a product called “Milky Spore”, (not effective in Texas for the white grub), this is a natural non-toxic bacterium that will kill grubs and can be purchased online or your local garden store.  

Beneficial Nematodes is another long-term solution for grubs and can be purchased online or at garden stores.  In Texas, commercially-available nematodes have shown a 50% reduction of grubs. Carefully follow instructions for the best results.  

According to Texas A&M Agri-Life Extension the repeated use of spiked sandals (sold for aerating) over the infested turf may reduce grub population by 50%.

Apply Neem oil as a botanical pesticide.

Adopt the lawn care recommendations.  Encourage those insect eating birds.  And if needed the products recommended to reduce the digging activity in your yard.  Remember the wildlife are beneficial in keeping our rodent populations under control.

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