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Little Armored One

Published on: Jul. 20, 2012

In Spanish, that’s armadillo, the leathery-shell-covered mammal that is becoming more common in many parts of Missouri. Armadillos were known from several southwestern Missouri counties as early as the mid-1970s.  Their range has expanded now to the east and north, so that they can be found almost anywhere in Missouri. In recent years, the animals have been reported from counties along the Mississippi River, from Cape Girardeau to St. Louis, by citizens who were unaccustomed to seeing them in that region. Reports have also increased from Missouri counties north of the Missouri River. They have even been found in a few southern Iowa locations. The extension of their range was thought to be limited to the north by bitter winter temperatures and ice, but they have confounded some predictions with their continued spread.

In Missouri, armadillos are still most common in our southwestern counties. Any traveler on I-44 between Lebanon and Joplin will see many road-killed armadillos. The species has a habit of jumping up in the air when startled, and that leads to many deaths from highway vehicles. During the summer, armadillos are most active at twilight and at night.

Although generally harmless, armadillos can become a nuisance in home landscapes when their digging leaves scattered holes and dirt piles. Fencing can be installed to protect gardens and other valuable plantings. As with most other nuisance wildlife, landowners do have options for shooting or trapping armadillos that are causing damage to their property. Shooting is not an option in municipal areas where the discharge of firearms is prohibited. Live traps, baited with overripe fruit, earthworms or mealworms, can be placed in areas frequented by armadillos. To enhance the trap, use 4- to 6-inch wide boards at least 6 feet long, placed as wings to help funnel the animals into the opening of the trap.

Armadillos are interesting and unusual in aspects other than just their appearance. Their four young are born in the spring as genetically identical quadruplets. When cornered, an armadillo will curl up into a ball, using its shell as a defensive covering. They use a long, sticky tongue for capturing their insect prey, like an anteater. They can walk on the bottom of a stream while holding their breath for up to six minutes or can gulp air to make themselves float across water. Because armadillos are probably in Missouri to stay, we may as well appreciate them.

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Comments

On August 20th, 2012 at 7:01am smitht2 said:

Beekeeper, The MO Wildlife Code allows the use of lethal means to control nuisance wildlife. You can kill it or haul it a sufficient distance from your property (ten miles or more) for release.   Tim Smith

On August 20th, 2012 at 12:12am Beekeeper said:

Thought someone came by and helped themselves by digging up some grass plugs today but I just forced an armadillo into a live trap. What do I do with it? It has made a mess in our yard! I will admit that it's snorts are cute and the cats are quite amused!

On July 25th, 2012 at 7:02am smitht2 said:

The diet of armadillos is 90% insects and insect larvae that they find in the ground. I am not aware of any negative impacts on other wildlife. Armadillos can suffer or starve when the ground is frozen or ice-covered for prolonged periods during the winter.

On July 25th, 2012 at 6:58am smitht2 said:

Armadillos reach sexual maturity at about one year of age. Females have four young at a time, identical quadruplets. Over the course of its life, one female armadillo can produce 56 young. As far as I know, one clutch per year is the norm.

On July 24th, 2012 at 5:28pm Gerald Diffey said:

i'am all for a season on anything that taste good. Please keep us informed,as MoCon is very good at that.

On July 24th, 2012 at 9:32am said:

SUCH A EXPLOSION IN POPULATION OF ARMADILLO"S . I COUNTED 12 ROADKILLS IN A 15 MILE STRETCH IN JEFFERSON COUNTY! ARE THEY SQUEEZING THE NATURAL WILDLIFE IN THE STATE COMPETING FOR THE SAME FOOD SOURCE AND HOW BIG IS THERE LITTERS AND HOW OFTEN A YEAR DO THEY BREED!

On July 24th, 2012 at 6:51am smitht2 said:

Anonymous: Yours is the first request for an armadillo season, as far as I know. There is the fact that they can carry leprosy and improperly cooked armadillo meat can lead to human infection. That would be an issue. I'll forward your request to our Regulations Committee but it would carry more weight if it wasn't anonymous and contained more explanation for why a season would be desirable. If you have more input, you can e-mail it to me at ombudsman@mdc.mo.gov

On July 23rd, 2012 at 10:36pm Anonymous said:

Generally harmless...yet tasty. When is the MDC going to consider treating armadillos like the renewable resource that they are and allow hunting and possession limits?

On July 20th, 2012 at 2:21pm Ed Farmer said:

In the Spring my wife and i were on I-70 near Columbia and we saw a roadkill Armadillo and just recently there was one on S-I-435 near the Blue River. My wife is from Northern Iowa and is fascinated by them.
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