You can control nine-banded armadillos

Richard Bogren, Gill, Daniel J.  |  7/28/2009 12:30:41 AM

For Release On Or After 08/08/09

By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

I live in an area that is rural transitioning into suburban. In many areas of the state, developers are building more and more new subdivisions in areas that were once wooded or open fields. People moving to these new subdivisions from more urban areas are often startled to encounter wildlife they never saw in the cities, such as deer, raccoons, armadillos, opossums and moles.

You may even live in an older subdivision with a nearby wooded area. After years of never having a problem with nuisance wildlife, you could find the situation changes when the wooded area is developed. Displaced wildlife may move into areas where they were not previously an issue.

Dealing with nuisance wildlife is rarely easy or simple. Typically, a careful study of the animals’ habits is necessary to control them effectively. Eliminating a nuisance animal often requires considerable time and effort, if it is even practical. Sometimes, unwanted wildlife can require gardeners to modify how they garden or what they grow or where they can grow it in some situations.

One of the more common complaints is from damage caused by armadillos. In their quest for subterranean food, they can uproot bedding plants, lawns, perennials and small shrubs. Damage can be light to extensive. Although armadillos typically tend to move on, control may sometimes be necessary. I checked with LSU AgCenter specialist Dr. Don Reed, who deals with problems relating to nuisance wildlife, about the life habits of armadillos and methods to control them effectively.

Apparently, armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus), although being rather recent inhabitants of our Louisiana landscape, have rapidly become a widespread pest in the state. Over the years, their range has expanded from South America to Central America and into most of Mexico and Texas.

The first armadillos to reach Louisiana appeared in the northwest corner of the state around 1925 and rapidly expanded their range. Their ability to spread so quickly into new areas is evident by the vast numbers we see dead along our highways. Armadillos have a peculiar habit of jumping upward when startled. This probably accounts for many collisions with automobiles in situations that otherwise would involve the vehicle safely passing over the animal.

Armadillos do not hibernate and therefore cannot remain in their burrows for long periods of cold weather. This factor, more than any other, limits their northward expansion and is the reason for population declines in Louisiana following extremely cold winters.

They breed in July and August, but because of delayed implantation, eggs aren’t fertilized until late fall. Developing embryos undergo a 120-day gestation period, after which four identical quadruplets are born. The reason for this odd reproductive feature, in which all of the young have exactly the same genetic makeup, involves the fertilization of a single egg that then divides into four separate embryos.

Armadillos’ burrowing and rooting habits are often the cause of the animal coming into disfavor with homeowners. Characteristic armadillo activity in a landscape consists of shallow holes that are 1 to 3 inches deep and 3 to 5 inches wide. Squirrels, skunks and moles are animals that often do damage similar to armadillos. But squirrels make smaller, uniform holes, skunks have a characteristic smell and moles create raised earthen tunnels – the calling cards of these other culprits.

The majority of armadillos’ digging activity is done while searching for food. Some 90 percent of their diet consists of insects and larvae, though they also eat earthworms, fruits, berries, snails, slugs, ants, amphibians and reptiles in small quantities.

Control measures

Armadillos are classified as outlaw quadrupeds, which makes it legal to kill them year-round. Shooting is one method that is legal in Louisiana when done during daylight hours and within the guidelines of local firearm ordinances.

This lethal option, however, is sometimes difficult to employ because most armadillos are nocturnal. Trapping with either leg-hold or wire-type box traps is often successful in controlling armadillos around homes and yards. Leg-hold traps are most effective when set near the entrance to an active burrow. Wire-type box traps can be set in areas where armadillo activity is ongoing. Baits are often not necessary in these traps; instead, use a set of boards to funnel armadillos directly into the trap. No repellents, toxicants or fumigants are registered for control purposes.

More information is available on the Internet. Simply do a search for armadillo control.

Rick Bogren

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