July 26, 2021
Wildlife Highlight – Armadillos
Town Biologists have received several calls/concerns about armadillos in the last few months and wanted to take this opportunity to officially introduce this recent arrival to the community. Provided below is a brief overview of their history and common questions regarding this unique species.
- Although there are close to 20 species worldwide, only the nine-banded armadillo is found in the United States.
- They are found throughout the southeastern United States and have been expanding their range northward for more than a hundred years.
- Their name means “little armored one” in Spanish, referencing the bony, armor-like plates covering their bodies.
- Nine-banded armadillos are approximately 2.5 feet in length, including their tail, and weigh 10-12 pounds.
- They are generalist feeders, have poor eyesight, hunt by smell, and primarily eat insects, including cockroaches, wasps, termites, spiders, fire ants, grubs, and more.
- They are excellent diggers and typically dig 4-5 burrows for shelter.
- Armadillos breed during the summer months, and young are born the following spring. They almost always give birth to four young, which are identical quadruplets of the same sex.
- Armadillos showed up naturally on Kiawah approx. 3-4 years ago and are now common on all parts of the island.
Are armadillos going to damage my yard or landscaping? Armadillos can cause minor landscape damage by rooting in yards and landscaped beds as they search for earthworms and other grubs but rarely cause significant issues. In fact, they can be quite beneficial in controlling insects and invertebrates that can cause problems for sod and other landscape plants.
What should I do if I find an armadillo burrow near my home? If the burrow is located near your home’s foundation, patio, etc., it should be filled in with dirt or concrete. It is recommended that you trap the armadillo first by setting a cage trap at the burrow entrance. Most nuisance wildlife companies that service Kiawah can provide this service.
Do armadillos carry leprosy?Yes. Some armadillos carry the bacterium, Mycobacterium leprae, which causes leprosy (officially called Hansen’s Disease) and can spread the disease to humans. Transmission to humans is extremely rare and occurs almost exclusively in people who come in frequent contact with armadillos while cleaning them to eat. There are less than 200 cases of leprosy per year in the US, and close to 95% of the US population is naturally immune to infection.
Is there any effort to control the armadillo population on Kiawah? No. Armadillos naturally migrated to the island and are now a part of our local ecosystem. They provide many benefits to our ecosystem, and large-scale control is neither desirable nor possible. Homeowners should address issues with armadillos on a case-by-case basis.