Apr 12, 2023 - News

North Carolina has a growing armadillo population

Nine-banded armadillo

A nine-banded armadillo in a ditch near Gorham, Illinois. Photo: E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

There's a new critter making its home in the Tar Heel State.

Driving the news: Armadillo sightings in North Carolina are on the rise and the animal appears to have an entrenched population in the state.

  • Now, NC's Wildlife Resources Commission is asking for help documenting sightings of the creature, as it tries to determine the extent of their range.

What's happening: A native of central America, armadillos don't have the bodily insulation to withstand cold temperatures. But as North Carolina's winters become more mild, armadillos have moved in.

  • Armadillos were first sighted in North Carolina's Macon County in 2007 — and since then have been more than 800 reports in counties from the mountains to the coast.
  • Reports of the creature are up 67% since 2020.

What they're saying: "Armadillos have established themselves in six counties" mainly in the western border counties, Colleen Olfenbuttel, the Wildlife Resources Commission’s black bear and furbearer biologist, said in an interview.

  • "The mountains used to be a barrier for them, but with fewer long cold spells, they are making their way."

Why it matters: Some consider Armadillos pests due to their propensity for digging holes, destroying vegetation and eating bird eggs. A TikTok song about their untoward habits even went viral.

  • They can also carry leprosy, though cases are uncommon, Olfenbuttel said. One study found between 0-10% of armadillos were infected, the Wildlife Resources Commission noted in a report.
  • Still their leftover burrows could benefit other animals, Olfenbuttel said.

Be smart: Olfenbuttel suggested always wearing gloves when in contact with an animal.


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