Armadillos, the only mammals in the world with a true shell, are fascinating creatures. Their unique characteristics and tendencies have earned them a place in several tales. An ancient Mayan legend says the first armadillos were created to teach humility to a pair of untruly deities. After the deities sat on a bench, the bench was transformed into a pair of armadillos who immediately jumped into the air, tumbling the deities to the ground. Rudyard Kipling, in his Just So Stories, tells an amusing tale of a hedgehog and a turtle who form an alliance in order to outsmart a jaguar – thus becoming the first armadillos.
Armadillos in Missouri
There are 20 varieties of armadillo, and 19 of these are exclusive to Latin America. Only one, the nine-banded armadillo, has a range that includes parts of the United States. The nine-banded armadillo has been naturally expanding its habitat northward from Central America since 1849, and has been sighted in Missouri for the last 40 years in ever-expanding numbers. Once rare this far north, they are now a common sight.
Physical Features of the Nine-banded Armadillo
The nine-banded armadillo is a cat-sized mammal that is covered with a scaled shell, also known as a carapice. It ranges in length from 15-17 inches, and has a tail that measures between 14-16 inches long. It has four toes on each front foot and five toes on each rear foot, with strong claws for digging and burrowing, and a small head with pointed ears and a long snout.
The nine-banded armadillo eats a variety of insects and other invertebrates. They also eat small reptiles, amphibians, and carrion. Fruit, berries, and other vegetation also make up part of the nine-banded armadillo diet.
Armadillos live in temperate and warm habitats. Because of a lack of fat stores and low metabolic rate, cold is their enemy, and cold weather can wipe out whole populations. Most species of armadillo dig burrows, where they sleep up to 16 hours a day. In making burrows and searching for food, they can destroy lawns and gardens, and they can even destabilize tree root systems and building foundations by tunneling under and through them.
Breeding and Social Structure
Armadillos are not territorial, and will often share their burrows with other armadillos, and even other species such as skunks, rabbits, and opossums. Females mate with one male, and implantation is delayed for around 14 weeks. Approximately 4 months later, the female gives birth to identical quadruplets, which develop from the same egg. These babies are born with soft skin that hardens as they grow older. They are able to walk within a few hours, and forage with their mother within a few weeks.
Signs of Armadillos
Risks Associated with Armadillos
Armadillos are known carriers of mycobacterium leprae, which causes leprosy. They also carry tapeworms, and salmonella, which are transmitted through fecal matter. Armadillos can also carry rabies, but they are far less likely to transmit the disease than raccoons or skunks, as they are not prone to biting.
If you are having problems with armadillos at your Lake of the Ozarks area home or business, call the professionals at Adair’s Animal Nuisance Trapping. Our experienced team of trained trappers will make sure the armadillos are safely removed, and they can even fix the damage to your property.