Explorers encountered armadillos when they arrived in Central America in the 15th century. That’s because armadillos love warm climates. Since the mid-1850’s, they have been moving into Texas and the southeast of the U.S. and people began to see them in Missouri about 40 years ago. Still, those sightings were rare, but this is no longer the case.
Pretty Hefty Migration These Days
Now, Missourians are regularly seeing these strange looking critters in southern Missouri, and sightings near Kansas City are picking up. Many of these are dead armadillos on the side of the roads, but this certainly means that more and more of them are coming.
Wildlife specialists are now seeing hundreds and hundreds of them and not just in rural areas – they are creeping into neighborhoods.
At Least They Aren’t Alligators
It could be worse. Armadillos are not dangerous to humans. (There used to be myths that they carried leprosy and other diseases).
They really don’t have many natural enemies either. In Missouri, cars are their biggest threat.
Still, homeowners are not happy. Armadillos eat small critters who live underground, and so they dig. In fact, it is estimated that they can pretty much destroy a yard overnight with that digging. They are joining moles as a major frustration to people who take great care of their yards.
How Far Can They Go?
Armadillos cannot survive really harsh winters, so many are wondering why they have come so far north. In the high heat of summer and the cold of winter, they burrow into the ground, but decades ago the cold of some Missouri winters would have killed them anyway. That’s not happening now, and scientists are beginning to study that in more depth.
In Missouri, university research is looking into winter conditions, such as moisture in the soil, which may be impacting their ability to survive. Still others scientists are speculating that global warming is the cause.
Whatever it is, armadillos continue to blow past what natural biologists have insisted would be their northern boundaries. Not too long ago, they were insisting that the Missouri River would be the northern boundary. But they can swim, and across the river they have gone. They have even been found in Nebraska in recent years.
The following map, published by the Missouri Department of Conservation, tells the story of armadillo settlement in our state:
If You Come Across An Armadillo…
Remember, armadillos are not dangerous. In fact, they don’t like people much, are not aggressive, and are apt to roll up into a ball so that its armor can protect it. There are a few options you have:
- Trap it. Then take it a wooded rural area and release it. This is obviously the most humane strategy. If you see evidence in your yard, use overripe fruit and worms as bait for your trap.
- You can try to shoot it, but you had better check local regulations first.
- You can call Animal Control or a pest removal service
- You can actually eat it. There are a number of good recipes for baked or barbecued armadillo and for armadillo eggs, if you find them.
Armadillos are not considered an invasive species by the Department of Conversation. While they may be a nuisance, especially in neighborhoods and for highway cleanup crews who have more dead animals to clear from our roadways, they do not harm our ecosystem.