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Statewide Homegrown 3

Armadillos in Arkansas

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With their strange leathery coats of armor, armadillos are both unique and creepy. If you take a closer look, you might even find them to be a little cute. These fascinating creatures, related to sloths and anteaters, are somewhat new to Arkansas.

Recently, I kept waking up to find small holes in my front yard. A few turned into more. And then it seemed that my entire yard looked like a poorly executed attempt at building a putt-putt course—a 5,986-hole putt-putt course. I wasn’t happy.

Then I found the big hole that presumably led to the den of whatever was destroying my yard. To find the culprit, I became a woman on a mission. A late-night recon with a flashlight revealed the offenders: several large armadillos.

Armadillos

Armadillos are not native to Arkansas. They first arrived in the Natural State only about 100 years ago and continue to spread. (Should we throw a centennial party for them in 2021?) They have even been spotted as far north as Missouri.

Colloquially known as dillos or dillers, Arkansas is home to only one species: the nine-banded Armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus). It’s presumed to have moved into the state from Louisiana and Texas, where there were established populations as early as the late 1800s.

Armadillos are covered with a shell that looks like a suit of armor. The name armadillo translates to “little armored one.” The armadillo’s shell is one of its best defense mechanisms.

Armadillos like soft soil that is easy to dig. So your backyard, your garden and your local golf course are prime dinner buffets. They feed on grubs, beetles and spiders, found on the surface and first layer of soil. Armadillos might also occasionally feed on the eggs of ground-nesting birds such as wild turkey and quail.

Since armadillos can’t regulate their body temperatures, they dig burrows into the ground where they will often spend as many as 16 hours a day. They typically try to avoid the hottest and coldest times of the day and are often more active at night, digging their burrows under some sort of cover (bushes, a parked vehicle or trailer) for an easy escape from predators.

Armadillos mate in the fall, and babies are born in the early spring. They look much like adults but with softer shells that harden as they grow older.

How to Rid Your Yard of Armadillos

As an animal-lover, I always try to take the most ethical approach. Looking at my yard’s condition, we had moved from a minor inconvenience to a significant problem that needed to be handled.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has labeled armadillos as nuisance animals, so landowners have several options when it comes to ridding their yard of these digging fiends.

  • Ignore the problem. This is perhaps easier said than done. They will eventually move on to a better food source and won’t stick around forever. A little grass seed can cover up the damage.
  • Modify the habitat. In some cases removing brush cover that provides them with a nice place to burrow can encourage them to move elsewhere. Armadillos may build several burrows, so keeping brush cut and removing trash from your yard helps eliminate some of the best digging spots.
  • Trap and release. State regulations allow for trapping of armadillos, although specific requirements must be met, which can be found on the commission’s website. Armadillos must be released within 24 hours and it is advised to release them at least five miles from the location where they were trapped.

Do Armadillos Carry Leprosy?

Armadillos are known carriers of Hansen’s disease, the bacterial infection better known as leprosy. The risk of contracting leprosy from one is extremely rare. However, it is advised that you wear gloves when handling armadillos or live traps that contain them. Traps and anything the animal has touched should be washed with a chlorine solution.

Interesting Facts about Armadillos

  • Armadillos have very poor eyesight, making them more prone to vehicle strikes than other wild animals.
  • It is believed that they can hold their breath for up to five minutes allowing them to walk across the bottom of small streams and rivers to reach the other side.
  • Armadillos can swim by inflating their stomachs with air and paddling across a body of water.
  • When startled, the nine-banded armadillo can jump as high as 4 feet straight up in the air.
  • Their shells are extremely hard and there have been incidences where people were injured by bullets that ricocheted off their shells.
  • A single armadillo may have as many as 11 burrows spread across its habitat area, so a score of cover and safety from predators is always only a few steps away.
  • Some people claim to have seen a nine-banded armadillo roll into a ball. While they can arch their shells some, the only armadillo that can completely roll into a ball is the three-banded armadillo, not found in North America.

After several nights of setting traps, we were able to catch and remove several large armadillos from our yard. We transported them to property where they could live out their lives far away from humans and houses.

Hopefully, they won’t find their way back.

Cover photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.

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Julie Kohl works from home as a writer and virtual assistant while raising her young son. A former Yankee who was "converted" to the south by her husband, Julie has grasped on to rural life in a sleepy, blink-your-eyes-and-you'll-miss-it town in central Arkansas. Julie loves adventure. Not necessarily "scare-your-pants-off" adventure but the kind where you seek out new and exciting things. New foods, new places, new experiences. On her blog, Seek Adventures, Julie shares about the outdoor and travel adventures of her family as they camp and standup paddleboard across the South. You can also learn more about her writing on her site Seek Adventures Media.

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3 responses to “Armadillos in Arkansas”

  1. Judy Goodwin says:

    I’ve really enjoyed Julie Kohl’s articles. They are well researched and clearly presented. I also find all of the articles in Only in Arkansas very interesting and well researched. I never miss a week of checking out what’s available to read about in your newletter.

  2. Thank you so much, Judy! We appreciate your support and your kind words!

  3. Ruth Reynolds says:

    So happy I found this site!!! I love finding new things about where I live❤️

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