Dadgum 'dillos!

Published on Saturday, 12 April 2014 22:51 - Written by Chad Gulley Extension Agent

Have you noticed digging in your lawn, garden or flower beds? You could have armadillos rooting around looking for food. Proper identification of the animal causing the damage to your lawn or garden can help you decide what to go to mitigate the damage.

Armadillos weigh between 8 pounds to 17 pounds and can be around 30 inches long including the tail. They are gray in color; their body is covered with a protective shell or body armor. They have nine movable bands across the back, and the tail is covered with a series of overlapping rings.

The gestation period for armadillos is five months. They have one litter per year, and give birth in March or April. Armadillos have a litter of quadruplet babies with the litter all being the same sex.

Armadillos are active primarily during twilight hours through early morning. The armadillo’s diet consists of insects such as grub worms, earthworms, scorpions, spiders, small amounts of fruits, vegetables, berries and tender roots.

Additionally, armadillos are fast runners when in danger. They have poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell. Armadillos also are good swimmers.

Armadillos are burrowing animals with their front feet being well adapted for digging. Their burrows can be 7 inches to 8 inches in diameter and up to 15 feet in length. Burrows are most common around rock piles, stumps, brush piles, barns and even our homes. Armadillos dig a number of burrows in an area to use for escape.

Armadillos are considered beneficial due to the fact they eat insects and other invertebrates. Their digging can become a nuisance around lawns, golf courses, gardens and flower beds. Damage also can occur around buildings, driveways, and other structures when the armadillos burrows. Armadillos also may be infected by an organism that is thought to be the human leprosy bacterium.

If armadillos are causing damage to your property there are some things you can do. As with any animal, be sure to check with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department before you control or relocate the animal species.

Trapping is one means of control. Cage trapping can be an effective way to capture an armadillo causing damage. Although it is legal to trap armadillos, it is prudent to check with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department before you trap or relocate the animal species. Traps should be placed in trails near fences or beside buildings. If the burrow is located, the trap can be placed at the entrance of the burrow. Trapping for armadillos may be more effective if two long boards are used on either side of the trap to funnel the animal into the trap. Traps can be baited with ripe or spoiled fruit that attracts flies and other insects. Some even use worms placed in nylon stockings or other containers.

Other control methods include exclusion fences. Proper fence design is important or the armadillo may burrow under or even climb over the fence. Homeowners even have buried the fence down in the ground to keep armadillos from burrowing under the fence. In large areas fencing may not be as effective due to the cost. Cultural controls include removing rock piles and mowing tall grass near structures to discourage armadillos from becoming established in an area.

Insecticides applied to the lawn may also offer some control. The insecticides reduce the food source for the armadillo, thus they will eventually move on to find another food source. If using this method, be sure to read and follow all label recommendations for using insecticides in your lawn. There are no fumigants, repellents or toxicants registered to control armadillos.

Educational programs of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetic information or veteran status.