MadSci Network: Environment & Ecology

Re: How can I keep armidilos from digging up my lawn?

Date: Thu Nov 16 17:21:45 2000
Posted By: Mark Madachik, PD, Heartland Farm/Nursery
Area of science: Environment & Ecology
ID: 972006218.En

To understand how to best deal with your armadillo problem, you need to 
know a little about their biology.
   Armadillos belong to the same family of mammals as
the sloth and anteaters.  Their body is made of a leathery
material generally referred to as "armor".  The species
most present in North America is the Nine-banded armadillo
and can be found throughout the entire southwest and
southeast. In fact, this species of armadillo is migrating
ever further from Texas - the original state it was first
found.  In some states, they have established themselves
after being released intentionally. 
   Armadillos love to nest in rock piles, around trees
or shrubs and under slabs. Their burrows are usually
15 to 25 feet long and cause extreme damage to tree roots.
In many cases, this damage leads to the tree dying.
These same burrows can lead to flooding when dug around
crawl spaces and can undermine patio slabs or walkways.
This weakening ultimately leads to the concrete falling
apart and breaking. Armadillos are strong diggers and
rely on this strength for food and shelter.
   Armadillos are attracted to tasty fruit which may
be found in a garden or compost pile. Once they start
coming around, expect them to return every night as they
are mostly nocturnal. They like to establish "runs" where
they will travel every night expecting to find food.
These same "runs" can be used against them and will be
discussed later in the article.
   Armadillos also love turf worms and grubs. Lawns which
are left untended will often develop beetle grub populations
which will certainly attract armadillos from far and wide.
Earthworms are another food source they like and either
grubs or worms can be found by digging up sod, raking away
leaves, moving carefully laid wood chips or bark, or simply
digging frantically until such food is found. Either way,
the mess they leave is aggravating, damaging and never
ending once it begins.
   Armadillos mate in the fall and have their young around
February or March. Almost every litter will have identical
quadruplets. These minature adults are ready to walk, swim
and behave much like their parents. By the end of the summer,
they too will be wreaking havoc in the neighborhood!
   Armadillo control can be accomplished by either a passive
or aggressive method. Using both tactics will ultimately 
provide the best results. Passive techniques use repellents
and sprays to deal with the armadillos vast food sources.
This approach will provide results, but only over time.
Aggressive techniques involve trapping and provide instant
control. However, if some of the passive techniques are
not employed, other armadillos will move into the vacant
territory once the current armadillo is removed. In most cases, both 
passive and aggressive armadillo control will. Treating lawn and garden 
areas for insects will also help but removing the fod they are loking for.
   Trap placement needs to be where the animal is active. 
This is usually in the yard where they are digging or
around a den you know is active. Armadillo don't see
well and require fencelines, structures and pathways
for most of their travel. These pathways can allow
for the easiest way to trap these animals. Simply 
place your trap along the pathway and most armadillo
will walk right inside the trap! Many armadillo have
been caught by setting a trap along their path and then
placing 2x6's on their side in front of the trap extending
away from the traps entrance. This "funnel" will channel
the armadillo into the trap and will allow you to
catch the animal without using bait! It is not because
armadillos are dumb as much as it is they can't see well.
This lack of vision requires them to forage based on 
set patterns and learned routes. This is also why is
can be hard to get an armadillo to change it's pattern
once it starts feeding in your yard. 
   The repellants are usually Hot pepper based products and can be made at 
home with a blender, water and hot peppers. 
    The last resort is to pave over your yard, paint a white stripe down 
the middle and run the little suckers over.   Good luck   Mark

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