Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)

WHY DO ARMADILLOS GET SQUASHED BY CARS?  Armadillos have grayish brown skin.  They are about the size of a cat, but have very short legs.  Nine-banded armadillos usually have nine bands on their shell-like armor.  Their armor is not hard like a turtle’s, but has a strip of skin between each band.  This bendable skin helps the armadillo to curl up to keep his face and belly safe from predators.  When the armadillo gets scared, it jumps 3 or 4 feet straight up.  This reflex jump surprises the predator, so the armadillo can sprint away.  But when the scary noise is a car, it makes the armadillo to jump up and hit the bottom of the car.  If you see an armadillo crossing the road, drive around it.  Don’t straddle it with your tires or you’ll still squash it.  

WHAT DO THEY EAT? Armadillos eat many bugs that are dangerous to garden plants.  But they also dig for insects, so they can ruin your grassy yard.  They like to live in forests, but can live anywhere that’s warm and has beetles and grubs (worm-like baby beetles) to eat.  Armadillos do have teeth, but they don’t bite much.  Their long, sharp digging claws can be dangerous.   They make a lot of noise while looking for food.  They walk along at 1 mile/hour (that’s slow!) with their nose in the leaves sniffing for beetles.   Their nose leaves a trail in the ground that you can follow.  They can smell a grub 8 inches underground!  When they find one, they dig a golf-ball-sized hole to get it out.  Look for these food holes in the woods.

WHAT ABOUT BURROWS AND BABIES?  You can also look for armadillo homes or burrows, circular tunnels about 7 inches wide that armadillos dig underground.  These tunnels can go 20 feet back into the ground and have more than one entry hole.  The armadillo will dig one part of the burrow very big and bring in leaves to use as a bed.  If a burrow entry hole is covered with leaves, it is probably not being used by the armadillo.  But other animals might be using it (like snakes, frogs, and burrowing owls) so don’t stick your hands in!  Since armadillos have to dig a lot, they can hold their breath for 6 minutes so they don’t breathe in a lot of dirt.  (This also helps them float or walk across the bottom of lakes!)  Female nine-banded armadillos have four identical babies each time they give birth.  The babies drink mother’s milk and are fully grown at six months old.  Did you know that armadillos didn’t come from Florida?  They were brought from South/Central America in zoos and circuses in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  They escaped, and now we have lots of armadillos!

WHAT ABOUT DISEASES?  Armadillos have been used to research a cure for Hansen’s disease (leprosy).  In Texas and Louisiana, wild armadillos are testing positive for Hansen’s disease and may have transmitted the disease to people that touched them.  Florida armadillos don’t carry this disease.  Still, try not to touch wild animals.  Wash well if you do!

Armadillo Foot Print

RESOURCE:

Grzimeck, Dr. Bernhard. Grzimeck's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Volume 11, Mammals II. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company. 1975.
Wilson, Suzanne J. "Armadillos."
  
http://www.conservation.state.mo.us/conmag/1997/03/3.html (17 Nov 1997).\

Provided by the Pelotes Island Nature Preserve
http://pelotes.jea.com

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