Control nine-banded armadillos

Richard Bogren, Gill, Daniel J.  |  8/4/2015 12:53:11 AM

Armadillo activity can be identified by shallow holes that are 1 to 3 inches deep and 3 to 5 inches wide. (Photo provided by LSU AgCenter)

For Release On 08/14/15

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 live in an older subdivision with a nearby wooded area. After years of never having a problem with nuisance wildlife, you could find that 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 life habits of the animal is necessary in order to control the animal effectively. Eliminating the nuisance animal often requires considerable time and effort, if it is even practical. Gardeners may have 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 range from light to extensive. Although armadillos typically tend to move on, control may sometimes be necessary. I checked with LSU AgCenter specialist Don Reed, who deals with problems relating to nuisance wildlife, about the life habits of armadillos and effective methods for controlling them.

Although armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus) are rather recent inhabitants of Louisiana, they have rapidly become a widespread pest throughout the state. Their range has expanded from South America to Central America and now into North America.

The first armadillos to reach Louisiana appeared in the northwest corner of the state around 1925 and rapidly expanded their range. The ability for these animals to spread so quickly into new areas is evident by the vast numbers that are seen dead along our highways. A peculiar habit that armadillos have of jumping upward when startled 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 our state following extremely cold winters.

Breeding occurs in July and August, but because of delayed implantation, egg fertilization does not take place 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 are of the exact genetic makeup, involves the fertilization of a single egg that then divides into four separate embryos.

The burrowing and rooting habits of armadillos are the main reasons they cause problems in Louisiana landscapes. Characteristic armadillo activity consists of shallow holes that are 1 to 3 inches deep and 3 to 5 inches wide.

Squirrels, skunks and moles are animals that may do damage similar to armadillos. But squirrels create smaller, more uniform holes; skunks produce a characteristic smell, and moles cause raised earthen tunnels different from the damage caused by armadillos.

The majority of the digging activity by armadillos is done while searching for food. Some 90 percent of their diet consists of insects and larvae, while they also consume 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 of armadillos.

More information is available on the Internet by doing a search for “armadillo control.”

Rick Bogren

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