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The Nine-Banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)

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Abstract

This document is WEC 76 and was previously published under the title “Control of Armadillos.” It is one of a series of the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, UF/IFAS Extension. First published January 1998. Revised October 2003 and October 2012. Reviewed August 2015. Please visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for more publications.
WEC 76
The Nine-Banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)1
Joseph M. Schaefer and Mark E. Hostetler2
1. This document is WEC 76 and was previously published under the title “Control of Armadillos. It is one of a series of the Department of Wildlife
Ecology and Conservation, UF/IFAS Extension. First published January 1998. Revised October 2003 and October 2012. Reviewed August 2015. Please
visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.u.edu for more publications.
2. Joseph M. Schaefer, district director, County Operations, Everglades Research and Education Center; and Mark E. Hostetler, wildlife Extension specialist
and professor, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to
individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national
origin, political opinions or aliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension oce.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County
Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.
Armadillos are prehistoric-looking animals that belong
to a family of mammals found primarily in Central and
South America. e earliest fossil ancestor of our North
American armadillo occurred about 60 million years ago; it
was as large as a rhinoceros. Our present-day nine-banded
or long-nosed armadillo, Dasypus novemcinctus, is much
smaller; adults normally weigh from 8–17 pounds (3.5–8
kilograms) (Figure 1). is species occurs in Texas and east,
throughout the South. It occasionally is found in Missouri
and South Carolina. However, cold weather limits the
northern boundary of the armadillo’s range.
Armadillos were not always present in Florida. During the
past century, they expanded their range from Texas into
the Florida panhandle. From 1920 to about 1970, there
were several introductions of armadillos into the Atlantic
coast region of Florida. en the panhandle and peninsular
populations expanded until they merged. Armadillos are
now found in uplands throughout Florida, except in the
Keys and parts of the Everglades and Big Cypress swamp.
Description
Armadillos have a shield-like shell covered with horny
scales. Joints in the shell are exible, which enable the
animal to bend and twist. Only the ears and belly of the
armadillo are without bony armor (Figure 2). ese pecu-
liar animals have 28–32 peg-like teeth in simple rows well
back in the mouth. ere are no front teeth. Armadillos
have poor eyesight and hearing, but a keen sense of smell.
Both males and females are about the same size, look alike,
and have similar habits. Despite their awkward appearance,
armadillos are agile runners and good swimmers, and even
have the ability to walk underwater across small streams.
Figure 1. The nine-banded armadillo.
Credits: Bill Kern
Figure 2. Dr. Joe Schaefer examines an armadillo.
Credits: UF/IFAS
2
e Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)
Typical Habitat
Armadillos inhabit dense shady cover, such as brush,
woodland or pine forests. Soil texture is also a factor in the
animal’s habitat selection. ey prefer sandy or loam soils
that are relatively easy to excavate.
Armadillos typically rest in a deep burrow during the day
and become more active during the late evening, night, or
early morning. ese burrows are usually located under
brushpiles, stumps, rockpiles, dense brush, or concrete
patios, and are about 7–8 inches (18–20 cm) in diameter
and can be up to 15 feet (4.5 m) long. Armadillos oen have
several burrows throughout their territory, but use only one
to raise their young.
Reproduction
Although armadillos breed in late July, the 5-month gesta-
tion period is delayed, which results in the young being
born in February or March. Only one litter is produced
each year, and it always includes four identical young of
the same sex because they develop from a single egg. e
young look like the adults except that they are smaller and
their armor coat remains so and leathery for some time,
becoming harder with age.
Diseases
Compared to other common mammals such as raccoon
and opossum, armadillos are remarkably free of parasites.
Twenty-six parasites and disease agents have been identied
from armadillos in Florida. ese include 2 arboviruses, 19
bacteria, 2 protozoans, 1 nematode, and 2 mites. All except
the nematode and mites may also infect humans or other
animals, but no severe outbreaks of these situations have
been reported. Rabies has never been diagnosed in armadil-
los in Florida.
In 1971, a captive armadillo developed leprosy 17 months
aer it was inoculated with the bacterium Mycobacterium
leprae obtained from an infected human. Subsequently,
armadillos have been used in further study of this disease.
Leprosy in wild armadillos has been reported at rates
ranging from 0.5% to 10% in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi,
and Mexico. However, no infections have been found in
the more than 2,500 armadillos examined in Florida. e
relationship between infections in wild armadillos and in
humans is not clear.
Causes of Death
Armadillos are one of the most common victims of
highway mortality in Florida. e armadillos instinctive
response of jumping upwards when startled may be eec-
tive at avoiding a lunging predator, but not an automobile
or truck passing overhead. Also, many are killed by dogs
and coyotes.
Feeding Habits
ese animals feed primarily on insects and their larvae.
ey also eat earthworms, scorpions, spiders, snails, and
small vertebrates and their eggs. Reports of armadillo
damage to birds’ nests on the ground are rare. People
cannot help but appreciate the fact that armadillos consume
large amounts of armyworms, cockroaches, ants, wasps,
ies, beetles, and grasshoppers. ey have been known to
dig up entire yellow-jacket nests. Armadillos usually search
for food by rooting or digging in ground litter, but will
occasionally eat berries and mushrooms.
Type of Damage Caused by
Armadillos
Armadillos are, to some degree, benecial because they eat
adult insects and larvae. But their feeding behavior also can
cause problems for property owners and managers. When
looking for insects in the soil, armadillos dig numerous
holes in golf courses, lawns, owerbeds, and gardens. ese
holes typically are 1–3 inches (2.5–7.6 cm) deep and 3–5
inches (7.6–12.7 cm) wide. ey also uproot owers and
other ornamental plants. Armadillo burrows under drive-
ways and patios can cause structural damage; and burrows
in pastures can pose a potential hazard to livestock.
Methods of Control
Recommended methods of control include:
• reduce watering and fertilizing lawns
• creating barriers (e.g., fences)
• live-trapping
• shooting oending individuals.
Reducing watering and fertilizing your lawn will reduce
armadillo damage. A moist lush landscape is perfect for
earthworms and insect larvae. Armadillos love earthworms.
Sometimes watering adjacent areas may attract armadillos
away from a site.
3
e Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)
Where highly valued plantings are in need of protection,
small fences may be used to keep the animals out. ese
fences should be approximately 24 inches (60 cm) above
ground with the bottom of the fence buried 18 inches below
the surface of the ground. e fence also should be slanted
outward at about a 40° angle.
Several live-trapping techniques can be used to capture
armadillos as they come out of their burrows. One is to
rmly insert a 6-inch diameter PVC pipe into the entrance
of an active burrow. Regular-sized armadillos will get stuck
in the pipe as they try to exit. A nylon throw-net used for
shing can also be staked down so it covers the burrow
entrance. Armadillos will get tangled in the net as they
emerge. Another trapping technique involves burying a
large bucket (larger than 5-gallons) in front of the entrance,
and covering it with newspaper or plastic sheeting and a
light layer of soil.
Because armadillos are nocturnal, all trapping techniques
designed to capture armadillos emerging from burrows
should be applied late in the aernoon and checked several
hours aer darkness.
Some armadillos can be discouraged from returning to bur-
rows by lling the hole with a mixture of dirt and mothballs
aer you are sure they have le for the night. Constant
lling of the hole will oen prevent them from returning.
Laying chicken-wire along a patio, driveway or house
foundation will also discourage them from burrowing.
Armadillos also can be trapped in raccoon-sized, metal,
cage live-traps (available from local pest control and feed
stores) or in homemade box traps. Traps should be located
near the entrance of burrows or along fences or other
barriers where they might travel. is trap is most eective
when “wings” (1 x 6 inch x 6 feet boards or other material)
are added to funnel the animal into the trap (See Figure
3). e benet of using baits with this trap is questionable.
Suggested baits are live earthworms or mealworms in
surrounding soil placed in hanging bags made of old nylon
stockings. Other suggested baits are overripe or spoiled
fruit. Armadillos are more likely to enter a cage trap when
leaf litter or soil is placed over the wire bottom.
Relocating problem animals to another area is not
recommended. is approach only transfers the problem
somewhere else, can enhance the spread of diseases, and
upsets the natural balance in the area where the armadillo is
released. Further, armadillos are not native to Florida and it
is illegal to transport and release them.
Shooting is another method frequently used to control
nuisance armadillos where it is legal to discharge a rearm.
Recommended rearms are a shotgun with No. 4 to BB-
sized shot or .22 or other small caliber rie. It is illegal to
use articial lights to aid in the shooting of armadillos at
night. Armadillo meat is edible if properly prepared and
there is no daily possession or season limit on them.
Poison baits are illegal and ineective. No chemical repel-
lents or fumigants are registered for use in Florida.
References
Fitch, H.S., P. Goodrum, and C. Newman. 1952. e
armadillo in the southeastern United States. J. Mammal.
33:21-37.
Howerth, E.W., D.E. Stallknecht, W.R. Davidson, and
E.J. Wentworth. 1990. Survey for leprosy in nine-banded
armadillos Dasypus novemcinctus from the southeastern
United States. J. Wildl. Dis. 26:112-115.
Humphrey, S.R. 1974. Zoogeography of the nine-banded
armadillo Dasypus novemcinctus in the United States.
Bioscience 24:457-462.
Ober, H.K., DeGroote, L.W., and R.F Mizell III. 2011.
Baiting the Nine-banded Armadillo. University of Florida,
IFAS Extension document WEC 317. Available at http://
edis.ifas.u.edu/uw362
Wolfe, J.L. 1968. Armadillo distribution in Alabama and
northwest Florida. Quart. J. Fla. Acad. Sci. 31:209-212.
Figure 3. A live-trap with “wings” added to help guide the armadillo
into the trap.
Credits:
Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage by University of
Nebraska, USDA-APHIS, and the Great Plains Agricultural Council
... For any juvenile armadillo (defined as an individual less than 1 yr old), all relevant individuals in the population initially were considered as candidate parents. For example, because armadillos usually do not begin breeding before their third summer (McDonough 1992), despite being physiologically capable of breeding at year one (McCusker 1977), juveniles in the 1992 sample were included in the pool of candidate parents for juveniles collected in 1994 and 1995 but not 1993. For any given year-class of juveniles, the initial candidate pool also included all other adults collected at any time during the 4-yr study. ...
... Nine-banded armadillos are relatively asocial, burrowing mammals that are active primarily at night (Newman 1913;Galbreath 1982;McBee and Baker 1982). Physiological data (Enders 1966;McCusker 1977), as well as field observations of males and females associating in close proximity (i.e., paired;McDonough 1992, suggest that the breeding season lasts from early summer through early fall. Males may be observed paired with more than one female during a breeding season, but females typically pair with just one male (McDonough 1992. ...
Article
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Genetic data from polymorphic microsatellite loci were employed to estimate paternity and maternity in a local population of nine-banded armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus) in northern Florida. The parentage assessments took advantage of maximum likelihood procedures developed expressly for situations when individuals of neither gender can be excluded a priori as candidate parents. The molecular data for 290 individuals, interpreted alone and in conjunction with detailed biological and spatial information for the population, demonstrate high exclusion probabilities and reasonably strong likelihoods of genetic parentage assignment in many cases; low mean probabilities of successful reproductive contribution to the local population by individual armadillo adults in a given year; and statistically significant microspatial associations of parents and their offspring. Results suggest that molecular assays of highly polymorphic genetic systems can add considerable power to assessments of biological parentage in natural populations even when neither parent is otherwise known.
... This was done primarily, because there were insufficient samples to analyse yearlings separately (for reproductive success n = 8 yearlings; for lactational status, n = 15 females, all of which were nonlactating). Yearlings are physiologically capable of reproduction (McCusker 1977 ;Peppler 1985), so it may be reasonable to lump them with adults. Nonetheless, we also analyzed adult data separately to determine if effects were due simply to the inclusion of data from yearlings. ...
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We described the types of anatomical damage exhibited by a population of nine-banded armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus) in northern Florida USA, and quantify the extent and frequency of occurrence of damage among different subgroups of animals. Anatomical damage included tail loss, missing portions of the carapace (notches), torn or missing ears, scarring of the carapace, and band abnormalities. Damage accumulated with age : adults exhibited significantly more damage than either juveniles or yearlings, and, among adults, the amount of damage increased over time. There were few sex differences in the extent or incidence of any type of damage, nor was there any evidence that damage affected reproductive success, although lactating females did exhibit more damage than non-lactating females. Body weights of damaged and undamaged animals did not differ for juveniles or yearlings, but damaged adults were significantly heavier than non-damaged individuals. Possible causes of damage included predators, conspecific aggression, the physical environment, and developmental instability.
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This article investigates Classic Maya understandings of two particular animal species: the (gray) fox and the armadillo. We use these species as a point of entry into Classic Maya categorizations of the non-human animal world, examining the salient biological and physical characteristics of those animals that Classic-period artists and scribes chose to highlight. Rather than accepting the creatures depicted on painted pottery or referenced in hieroglyphic texts as generalized examples of particular kinds (i.e., simply “a fox” or “an armadillo”), however, we show how the evidence from ancient art, historical accounts, and contemporary ethnography points to an emphasis on specific beings, often named individuals, who engage in particular behaviors and relate to other entities (both human and non-human) in distinctive ways. Although this article focuses exclusively on the fox and the armadillo, those species serve as examples through which we consider the limitations of applying Western taxonomic categories to other systems of knowledge, as well as the possibilities for how we might catch glimpses of radically different ways of organizing the world.
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Functional aspects of vigilance in nine-banded armadillos (Edentata: Dasypus novemcinctus) were investigated. Data on solitary individuals revealed few age or sex differences in time spent vigilant. However, vigilance increased in most social contexts and was highest during intraspecific agonistic encounters. These results suggest social functions for armadillo vigilance. Armadillos with higher vigilance levels had longer flight distances, suggesting that vigilance may also have antipredator benefits. Further examination of flight distances revealed that they varied with age, weather conditions, and time of year (breeding versus non-breeding season), and were negatively correlated with body size. In total, the results indicate the complexity of vigilance in a solitary species and suggest that armadillo vigilance is multifunctional.
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Current armadillo distribution is compared with reports dating back to 1880. Documented zoogeographic events include invasion into new territory, introduction, western range contraction in response to aridity, and approach of a northern winter barrier. Zoogeographic predictions are made on the basis of current climatic trends. Invasion rates are compared to those of other mammals, and events prior to the armadillo's recent arrival in the country are discussed.
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Ears from 853 nine-banded armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus) from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi were examined microscopically for evidence of leprosy. All were negative for both acid-fast bacteria (Mycobacterium leprae) and lesions compatible with leprosy.
Baiting the Nine-banded Armadillo
  • H K Ober
  • L W Degroote
  • R Mizell
Ober, H.K., DeGroote, L.W., and R.F Mizell III. 2011. Baiting the Nine-banded Armadillo. University of Florida, IFAS Extension document WEC 317. Available at http:// edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw362
Armadillo distribution in Alabama and northwest Florida
  • J L Wolfe
Wolfe, J.L. 1968. Armadillo distribution in Alabama and northwest Florida. Quart. J. Fla. Acad. Sci. 31:209-212.