Armadillos are extraordinary animals, with a number of quirks that most people are quite surprised by. The name means "little armored one" in Spanish, and the name is very well suited to the occasional nuisance critter; it is covered in armored plating that helps to protect it from predators.
The most widespread armadillo species, and the one you are likely to encounter as a pest species in North America, is the nine-banded armadillo. Despite popular reports, this particular species cannot roll itself up into a ball like that one internet meme shows you.
The largest adult armadillos can weigh up to 20 pounds in weight, though most are around the 5-15 pound range. They stand about a foot tall, when on all fours, which puts them at about the same size as your average house cat.
These creature is quite definable by its armor plating, which works as not just a form of protection, but also a floatation device.
With optimal conditions, an armadillo can live for up to 15 or 20 years, but many of them will die sooner than that. Estimates on the average lifespan for an armadillo range anywhere from 2 years to 10 years.
Armadillos will mate for a ‘season', which falls in different times depending on whether the animal is in the northern or southern hemisphere. In the former, mating season is around July and August; in the latter, mating season is around November, December, and January.
Armadillo females will keep hold of a fertilized egg until she can ensure the youngsters will be born at the right time: in spring, around March. Quite amazingly, the female will give birth to four identical armadillo babies, also known as pups, which will stay with her for up to a year. At that point, they leave to mate and start their own families.
Armadillos are burrowing animals, and they often live alone, creating more than one burrow. In one territory range alone, it is not unusual for armadillos to have more than 10 separate burrow areas, all of which are up to 7 feet below ground, and as many as 20 or 30 feet in length. Entrances to these burrows are almost always created near to a structure that offers some sort of shelter. This can be a sidewalk, concrete patio, building, or similar.
The armadillo has proved to be quite an adaptable animal, surviving well in most climates with the exception of those with harsh winters and very, very dry climates. With very few natural predators in North America, it hasn't taken long for numbers to grow exponentially.
Armadillos love to eat termites, ants, and similar small insects, but they will make use of whatever food sources are available. In some cases, this might mean roadkill or other dead animals, vegetables and fruits, and various forms of plant material alongside scorpions, spiders, worms, larvae, and beetles. The animal's foraging for good can actually be problematic in itself, disrupting bulbs and plants.
One of the problems that property owners are not aware of when it comes to sharing their properties with armadillos, is the threat of leprosy. Although the chance of infection passing from animal to human is quite rare, there is still a chance, and that's on top of other common wildlife-linked pathogens and diseases.
Armadillos are also known for their disruptive nature, though we're sure they don't mean to be. Digging around creating burrows and looking for bugs to eat is a messy business, and the tunneling can be very disruptive. The underground systems can be extensive and advanced, as well as complex, and with a lot of rain, or even just with activity and time, those tunnels can collapse in on themselves. When this happens, the land on top will be stable, which isn't such a big deal in smaller cases. In larger, more advanced cases, however, the stability issues can affect buildings and other structures.
A simple fence will keep armadillos out from above ground. They're great diggers, but very poor climbers — and you can use this to your advantage. It only needs to sit approximately two feet above ground to take effect, and it could be as simple as a chain link fence.
For underground protection, we recommend adding an additional ‘skirt' to your above-ground fence. Build a trench, add the additional chain link or mesh wire panel, at least two feet deep again, and then make sure that it is properly affixed to the fence above. Fill in the trench again, adding stones, rough rocks, and gravel, and you have an obstacle that many armadillos will give up at. They won't be able to dig under and up the other side because of that below-grow skirt, and the rough gravel and rocks makes it tough for them to even try.
We also recommend removing food sources for nuisance wildlife, but this can be hard to do with armadillos when they mostly eat insects. You could try using a non-toxic, animal and environmentally-friendly insecticide, but you won't ever be able to get rid of 100% of all insects from your property.
Trapping of armadillos is the best way to resolve a problem that's already present, putting in preventative measures after that to stop the critter — and all associated issues — from making a reappearance. It is recommend that traps sized 32x10x12 inches are used, and that they're placed along routes the animal or animals are already taking. You cannot persuade an armadillo to go out of its way to get bait food, and bait food is quite hard to come by when the animal eats earthworms most of the time. In most cases, bait isn't necessary providing trap placement is correct.
1 - The Aztec name for armadillos was "āyōtōchtli", which translates to "turtle rabbit".
2 - Armadillos can actually run much faster than you'd think just by looking at them, which, when combined with their armored plating, makes them quite the force for a predator to be reckoned with.
3 - When startled, armadillos jump straight up into the air, up to 2 feet high, which often leaves them seriously injured after being startled by vehicles.