Armadillo is the Spanish word for “little armored one”. The armor makes reference to the armor-like plates that cover the armadillo’s body. They are the only mammal with a hard, armor-like shell. With roughly 20 different species of armadillo in the Americas, the nine-banded armadillo is primarily found in the southeast United States. For purposes of this posting we reference the nine-banded armadillo. This species is approximately 2.5 feet long and weighs 12 pounds on average. Each armadillo species will differ in size, diet, litter size, and habitat.
The official state animal of Texas is the nine-banded armadillo. It entered Texas from Mexico just a little over a century ago. Armadillos tend to become a nuisance when they cause destruction by digging up lawns, gardens, flowerbeds, or burrow in pastures. They really are fascinating creatures that are excellent to have around to control of insects. The armadillo digs and roots because of their insatiable appetite for bugs and the delectable grubs that can be harmful to lawns. They eat snakes, spiders, and snails, as well. However, not many folks are comforted by these facts as they look out upon their yard and garden at the damage that has been done!
There are a few endearing nicknames that have been given to armadillos: near-sighted rooter, possum on the half shell, armored possum, Texas speed bump, Hoover hog, and poor man’s pork. Believe it or not, many people share an affection for armadillos . The armadillo has sparked the creativity of many an artist that uses their image for games, puzzles, t-shirts, jewelry, figurines, and toys among other items. Here are some FUN facts about armadillos: Baby armadillos are called “pups”. Armadillos enjoy a good wallow in the mud just as much as pigs do. When startled an armadillo can leap 3 feet straight up before running. The nine-banded makes a low grunting sound when digging. The body armor of armadillos offers little insulated protection against cold. As such, they prefer warmer climates and cannot endure prolonged freezing temperatures. They do not hibernate. Their eyesight is poor, but they have an acute sense of smell. Armadillos are not social and only get together to mate or stay warm. The protective shell does not harden on baby armadillos until the baby reaches adult size. Predators include dogs, wildcats, hawks, and humans. When threatened they will run, dig or press its body into the ground so not to be flipped over.
Damage in a yard that has been caused by an armadillo can be mistaken for damage created by a raccoon since the damage produced by both will look similar. Raccoons utilize their hand-like paws to dig while armadillos use their noses and claws to dig. The location of the damage in a yard can assist in determining which species of wildlife animal caused the damage. Raccoons generally cause damage across an entire lawn. An armadillo leaves a 3-5 inch deep, cone-shaped hole or divot with dirt piled up around it. The hole will be as wide as it is deep. The shape of the hole is created by the armadillo’s long, narrow head. When armadillos begin to cause damage to a yard is when they become a nuisance and removal from your property becomes necessary. Armadillos can dig burrows approximately 24 feet long. If they dig a burrow around the foundation of your home it could void the warranty on your termite contract. Pest control companies may require that you rid your property of armadillos before they treat your property for termites.
Because their diet is 90% insects and insect larvae (grubs), and because they also eat plants and animals - bird and lizard eggs, worms, small lizards, snails, frogs, dead animals - armadillos are considered to be omnivores. Armadillos mate in July but the embryo will not start to grow until November making gestation 2-5 months. The nine-banded armadillo gives birth to 4 identical pups of the same gender in each litter. All 4 develop from the same egg, sharing one placenta. Armadillos are the only mammal to regularly have multiple young from a single egg . The pups are born with their eyes open and are mobile within a few hours of birth. The mother nurses her young until they are weaned at approximately 2 months. They then remain with the mother until the next breeding season. When the babies are a year old they are mature and ready to breed. Their life span is 4-30 years. Armadillos are considered nocturnal because they are primarily active at night. They can spend up to 16 hours a day sleeping. During the time they are awake they are either digging burrows or foraging for food.
It may be surprising to learn that the armadillo cannot survive where soil is too hard for them to be able to dig easily. Their preference is for sandy or loam soils that are loose and porous which makes digging much easier. With their strong legs and sharp claws they are efficient diggers. The wiry hairs on their belly and along their sides are used like the curb feelers on a car. They lack the ability to store fat and are fairly picky about where they live.
Armadillos are close cousins to the anteater and sloth. People who have not yet fallen under the spell of armadillos have been so unkind as to call them “ugly”. The armadillo shell is as tough as fingernails yet flexible with softer skin between the bands. It helps to keep in mind that the armadillo is dedicated in its search for food. They are not doing anything wrong necessarily in their search. They are actually performing a service by removing the delectable grubs in your yard that can be harmful to your grass. They are not good about cleaning up their mess after feeding.
Armadillos are carriers of Mycobacterium leprae or M. Leprae, the primary cause of Hansen’s disease or leprosy. Humans, armadillos, and mangabey monkeys are the only mammals that can be infected with leprosy. The exact method of transmission is still being debated. It can take 3-5 years for symptoms of leprosy to manifest. The armadillo is a relatively harmless animal although it has the potential to spread diseases if touched or eaten.
Yes, believe it or not, there are people who do eat armadillos. They claim that it tastes like pork! The greatest danger to contracting an infection is through the cleaning and dressing of the animals for consumption. The secret to the preparation of noninfectious meat is to always ensure that the meat is thoroughly cooked. It is possible for Hansen’s to be transmitted through contact with the body tissue or blood of the armadillo. The bacteria can die off fairly quickly once its in the soil, especially if the weather is hot and dry. Still, it is wise to practice good hygiene, and to always wash your hands thoroughly after gardening. For more information about the armadillo and leprosy, visit this link from the CDC.
If you have an armadillo need armadillo removal in Memphis, TN, give Apex Wildlife Control a call at (901) 598-8555. We are here to help with all of your animal wildlife needs.