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Armadillo Problems

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on August 14, 2010

You go out to get into your car and see all your carefully planted bulbs knocked out of the ground or missing.  Half dollar sized holes are all through your carefully prepared and planted flower beds.  You lawn looks like an army of bad golfers came through during the night, leaving scores of divots all over the place.  What could do so much damage?

This is the way most people discover they have an armadillo living near them.  Armadillos are those tank like animals you see by the side of the road after they have lost an argument with a vehicle.  As their range has increased and they have moved further north, more and more people are having disagreements with armadillos.

Armadillos have evolved to be digging machines.  They have large front claws and dig burrows as well as dig for food.  The armadillo has poor eyesight but can smell an insect a long way off.  They are 8-17 pounds, about the size of an opossum.  Armadillos produce one litter a year consisting of four babies of the same sex.  They are born in a nest in the burrow.

Armadillos are rarely seen because they are primarily active at night during the summer, although they may work during the day in the winter.  They spend most of their time hunting insects.  In fact, 90% of their diet is insects, with the remainder being fruit, berries, and tender roots.

The problem come in when the armadillo smells an insect in your garden.  She doesn’t want the plant, but digs it up so she can get to the insect beside it.  So while on one hand she is beneficial and eats insects, on the other, she is destructive.

The best method of dealing with these problems is a fence.  I planted a number of bulbs on day.  When I came out the next morning to water them, they had been dug up or were missing.  I recognized the holes as armadillo holes and put four foot welded wire fencing around the replanted bulbs.  The next morning, I could see holes all around the garden, but none inside the fence.  Problem solved.

If fencing isn’t practical, though, you have two options.  You can shoot the armadillo, if you are someplace that is allowed and you can catch it, or you can trap it.  I would go with trapping it, myself.

Live traps are available from most farm supply stores.  Get one with at least 10 X 12 X 32 inches of space.  You can bait it with overripe fruit.  Place the trap on paths or near the burrow.  Armadillos can be difficult to trap because they do not follow a set routine.

When you trap the armadillo, do not touch it.  Armadillos carry leprosy and it is illegal, at least in Texas, to keep a live armadillo for that reason.  It is also illegal to release an armadillo on someone else’s property without written permission.  That leaves lethal disposal.  Most pest control companies will come out for a fee and collect the armadillo so you do not have to do this yourself.

Armadillos have been around since the age of the dinosaurs.  They were the size of volkswagons then.  It is far better to coexist with a little effort to exclude the armadillo from flower beds, garden beds, and other places they dig than to kill them.  Remember, they were here first.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Melinda August 14, 2010 at 6:08 pm

I’m in FL and have them in my yard constantly. They dig holes in the yard. If I put new mulch out on the flower beds..they like to come dig in it. So frustrating. I have a conservation area behind me..so there is no getting rid of them. They seem to come and go..I guess they pick another yard to harass occasionally. 🙂
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Stephanie Suesan Smith August 14, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Fence the yard. Use small 1 inch welded wire if you need to let the water drain well but even a four foot fence of that would eliminate the problem. I remember the frequency of armadillo sitings in Florida when we toured NASA.

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