Armadillos

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Published on: Mar. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 26, 2010

are born in the spring. But implantation may be put off as long as 2 years, apparently when the female's environment isn't favorable for pups.

Though adults live one to a burrow (or sometimes in a hollow log), they may share space with other species. At SMSU's study site, infrared-activated cameras photographed rabbits, squirrels, opossums, wood rats and wood chucks entering and exiting armadillo burrows.

If you find armadillos so novel and appealing you're moved to adopt one, don't rush into it. They're not the best housemates. Glands near the tail emit a musky odor, and at night the little armored one will collide noisily with walls and attempt to dig through the floor. Better to let it snuffle around outdoors, digging and flinging those armadillo divots, doing what an armadillo does best.

EXPANDING ARMADILLOS

The nine-banded is still on the move. Theoretically, people on Cape Cod eventually could be in for a little armored surprise.

How far can armadillos go?

The limits probably will be determined by precipitation and winter weather, according to a paper in the Journal of Biogeography by James F. Taulman, Ph.D. graduate student at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and Dr. Lynn W. Robbins, professor of biology, Southwest Missouri State University.

The armadillo's main food source, invertebrates, depends on moisture in the soil. The species' westward trek is expected to halt where precipitation drops below 38 cm (about 15 inches) per year, along the western borders of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Northward, precipitation is adequate, but winters are a problem. Armadillos don't hibernate and must eat, but ice and snow prevent digging. At Drury Mincy, after a week with snow on the ground, researchers found eight dead armadillos. Other armadillos, perhaps with more body fat, survived.

Taking into account winter temperatures and numbers of "freeze days," Taulman and Robbins predict armadillos could range into southern areas of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The West Coast and several other western areas also are suitable for armadillos, should humans introduce the species there.

Although rivers define some present boundaries of the U.S. range, they aren't necessarily road blocks. Armadillos somehow crossed the Rio Grande and the Mississippi, and the SMSU survey revealed a few sightings on the north side of the Missouri.

Even so, the nine-banded's current range in Missouri is at its predicted northern limit, essentially the Missouri River.

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