Greg Bowman

I remember several years ago being at an extension meeting at the Rock Eagle 4-H Center. It was a training event and we were staying at The Founders Lodge across the lake. A small group was visiting on the back porch where they have a nice flower bed beside a rock wall. I was sitting on the wall and I started hearing a critter in the flowers. My guess was a opossum or skunk in the flowers, but to my surprise it was an armadillo. Since that time, I have seen more and more armadillos. Yes, we do have armadillos in Gordon County. I will be sharing information on this animal from a UGA publication by Dr. Michael Mengak, UGA Associate Professor and Wildlife Outreach Specialist.

For starters, most of my sightings of armadillos have been the ones that do not make it crossing the road. In fact, they are not very mobile so armadillo movements across roadways can turn out bad for the armadillo. Mengak states that scientists classify armadillos with anteaters and sloths. In addition to not being very mobile, they have poorly developed teeth. Their teeth are more for grinding food and the teeth are not much help in catching prey. Mengak adds that armadillos are the only mammal in Georgia that has bony skin plates or shell.

There are twenty species of armadillos in Central and South American, but only one species of armadillo that lives in Georgia. Armadillos are about the size of an opossum. The male armadillo can weight in the 12-17 pound range with the females being smaller in the 8-13 pound range. They do have long claws on the feet that helps them dig. They have four toes on the front feet and five toes on back feet. Their ears are about 1 ½ inches in length and the nose is like a pig.

Armadillos like to dig burrows for homes or nest in dry grass areas. They can also use the burrows of other armadillos. They do not hibernate. They also do not like temperatures over 85 degrees F. During winter, armadillos will be more active during the warmest part of the day. During the summer, they will be more active at night. Armadillos can stay in a burrow for extended periods of time, but must come out at some point because they do not store food in the burrow or have a lot of body fat. In bad weather, they can freeze or starve unless they find food.

Some people that have armadillos on their property may consider their digging a nuisance activity. For the most part, armadillos are insect eaters by trade, but will eat fruit if available. They have a jaw structure and sticky tongue that is designed for their diet. They will consume beetles, wasps, moth larvae, ants, millipedes, centipedes, snails, leeches and even earthworms. Armadillos have also been known to eat frogs, toads, salamanders, lizards and small snakes. Mengak states they have been reported to eat newborn rabbits and a robin, but they do not know if these were found dead and consumed. Armadillos will feed on fire ants and seem to have no problem with fire ant stings.

I previously stated that the main complaint a person may have on an armadillo is the digging in lawns and other landscape areas. Remember, the digging is the armadillos looking for food. Armadillo digging damage can be shallow holes that are 1-3 inches in depth and 3-5 inches in width. The holes are said to look like an inverted cone, and according to Mengak, they can uproot flowers and plants.

Again, damage is more of a nuisance instead of an economic loss in Georgia at this time. The homeowner has to decide if the damage is bad enough to remove the armadillo. Keep in mind that armadillos are not protected in Georgia. There is no season or harvest restrictions. One way to control armadillos is by trapping. It is suggested to use a wire cage live trap that is 10 x 12 x 32 inches to capture armadillos. One key is the use of wings that are constructed of 1 x 6 inch lumber and put in a “V” formation in front of the trap opening to help funnel the armadillo into the trap. A good spot to place a trap is along natural barriers such as along a side of a building or a log. You can also place the trap close to an active armadillo burrow. No one bait seems to be better than others for the traps. In addition, there are no repellents, no toxicants or no fumigants registered for armadillo control.

Remember, armadillos like to eat insects. You may be having a problem with a few particular insects on your property. You may want to consider managing or removing those insects. Removing of the food source may cause the armadillo to leave your property instead of you trapping the armadillo.

For more information, contact UGA Extension- Gordon County at 706-629-8685 or email gbowman@uga.edu.