Beware of the armored armadillo
by Danielle Carroll
Special to The Star
Sep 30, 2012 | 1753 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
They come out at night and wreak havoc on lawns and garden beds. Everything may look fine one day, but the next you may find several 3- or 4-inch wide, 5-inch deep holes where the culprit has gone grocery shopping.

This may go on for days or weeks, until it looks like mines exploded in your backyard. Damage may also incur in garden areas, where some plants may be disturbed.

The nine-banded armadillo is probably one of the most ungraceful, noisy animals you could hope to hear at night. It lumbers across the way, literally bumping into everything. When it tromps through the woods, you would think an elephant was upon you.

The nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) is so named because of the nine moveable rings of armor between the animal’s shoulder and the hip shields. It has a long tail that is also protected by rings of armor.

Three-toe prints and sharp claw marks are typical of armadillo tracks. They burrow in the ground and have strong legs adapted for digging.

Armadillos are about the size of opossums, but not as cute. They are nocturnal and rarely make it out during the daylight hours, although in winter they are more apt to be seen in the daytime.

Armadillos feed on invertebrates in the ground and around loose litter. They are not after the plants or the plant roots; rather, they’re hunting grubs, worms and other insects.

To control armadillos, then, you might first feel compelled to grab an insecticide labeled for your lawn grass. Eliminating the armadillo’s food source is an option. However, insecticides do take time to work, and this will not eliminate the armadillo problem in a timely manner.

Using a broad spectrum pesticide on the lawn may control grubs and other insects, but you may find that the pesticide also controls the beneficial creatures like earthworms.

Repellents and toxicants are not labeled for armadillos.

Trapping armadillos is a more efficient way of getting rid of them. Live traps can be used to catch problem armadillos.

As armadillos do not have the best eyesight, traps are much more effective when “wings” are used. Pieces of wood or metal fencing can be used to corral the armadillo into the trap. Set the traps in the area where the damage is occuring. Baits include rotten apples or bananas, nightcrawlers, crickets and other bait-store baits.

When damage is confined to small, local garden areas, an electric fence can be used. A single strand 3 to 4 inches off the ground should be sufficient. Polytape electric fence wire with a New Zealand-type charger makes an effective and safe exclusion device. However, be very careful when placing a fence in areas where children may play.

Of course, the absolute best way to get rid of a nuisance armadillo is to shoot it. While it is legal to shoot the armadillo, it may not be legal to discharge firearms in your area.

Danielle Carroll is an extension agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
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Beware of the armored armadillo by Danielle Carroll
Special to The Star

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