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Little Armored One

Jun 04, 2018

If you’ve been driving south of the Missouri River this spring, chances are you’ve seen armadillos along the roadside.  The name “Armadillo” is Spanish for “little armored one", named for their hard outer shell.

Of the twenty varieties of armadillos found in Central and South America, only one species has made a home in our country and state, the nine-banded armadillo.They're named for nine narrow plates in their mid-section that gives them flexibility. 

The nine-banded armadillo first arrived in Texas in the mid-1800's, but it didn’t stop its northward invasion there. By the 1980's, armadillos were becoming familiar sights as far north as southern Missouri and southeast Kansas.

Armadillos have poor eyesight but good hearing. Their strong sense of smell is useful for locating prey such as earthworms, ants, and grubs.  Strong claws on their front feet make them excellent burrowers.  

Armadillos have a habit of jumping straight up when frightened.  They're often killed by leaping into vehicles passing overhead while crossing the road. 

You can find information on dealing with nuisance problems with armadillos on our MDC website.

Nine Facts About the Nine-Banded Armadillo

  • The nine-banded armadillo gets its name from the nine narrow bands in its midsection, which give it flexibility.
  • They are closely related to anteaters and sloths.
  • Armadillos are the size of an extra-large house cat.
  • They can sniff out insects underground up to six inches.
  • Their sharp claws dig to expose food, which is flicked into the mouth with the long sticky tongue.
  • Armadillos are nocturnal in the summer, but shift to daytime or evening in the winter.
  • To cross ponds and creeks, they swallow air to inflate their stomach and intestines in order to become buoyant. They then paddle the surface.
  • Or, they sink to the bottom and stroll across, taking a breath when they resurface.
  • Armadillos are the only living mammals to wear shells.

Learn how to deal with nuisance armadillo problems.

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