on Aug 01, 2013 10:50 AM • Views 14426

Armadillos are in North Carolina.

Media Contact: Geoff Cantrell

RALEIGH, N.C. (Aug. 1, 2013) — The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is asking the public to help document observations of nine-banded armadillos, as the bony-plated mammals expand their range in this state.

The public may report observations of armadillos by contacting Extension Wildlife Biologist Ann May at 919-707-0068 or ann.may@ncwildlife.org.

The nine-banded armadillo is about the size of a house cat or opossum and it has a gray to brownish-gray body with narrow, jointed armor bands on its midsection.  It feeds primarily on invertebrates, including insects, snails and earthworms. Depending on temperatures, the armadillo can be nocturnal, crepuscular or even active during the day.

The first confirmed armadillo sighting in North Carolina occurred in 2008. The Wildlife Resources Commission allows armadillos to be hunted year-round with no bag limit. Armadillos can be trapped during the regulated trapping season.

“Whether armadillos continue spreading beyond their current range will be largely determined by climate,” said Colleen Olfenbuttel, a Commission wildlife biologist. “Mild temperature conditions are good for armadillos. Since they lack thick insulation and must dig for most foods, freezing conditions can cause them to starve or freeze to death.”

Native to Central and South America, armadillos were first recorded in Texas in 1849 and have since expanded their range north and east, crossing the Mississippi River sometime in the early 1940s, appearing in western Tennessee in 1980.

Armadillos can carry – and transmit – leprosy. Although the number of armadillo-to-human transmitted cases is quite low, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Olfenbuttel recommends minimizing exposure.

“Just as you should wear gloves when handling any wild animal, you should wear gloves if you are handling a live or dead armadillo, or gardening in an area frequented by one, since its waste carries the bacteria that leads to leprosy,” Olfenbuttel said. “Other than the slight disease risk, an armadillo is not dangerous.”

An armadillo reacts to danger primarily by springing into the air and fleeing rapidly — it cannot roll into a ball, as some have imagined. This reaction tends to be fatal to the armadillo when the danger is an oncoming vehicle. Armadillos’ primary predators are feral pigs, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, dogs, foxes and raccoons.