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Armadillos: Midnight Lawn Marauders

Appearing clumsy and bumbling at first glance, these exotic invaders quickly damage landscapes in search of tasty insects.

Appearing clumsy and bumbling at first glance, these exotic invaders quickly damage landscapes in search of tasty insects.

by Les Harrison

It can be pretty discouraging to step out one morning to find a lawn pock-marked like the lunar surface. Stunned surprise then anger is usually the owner’s response.

The offender is not the neighborhood teenager with a reputation for inappropriate practical jokes. The offender is most likely an armadillo, sometimes identified as a Florida-speed-bump or a Possum-on-the-half-shell.

Armadillos eat mostly adult insects and their larvae. They incessantly dig holes in lawns and landscapes in their search for food, many times uprooting plants and turf in their food search. Their holes are approximately one to three inches deep and three to five inches wide.

Using insecticides to decrease the armadillo food supply is not guaranteed, but may help reduce the digging. In cases where there is a large, and always ravenous, armadillo population this reduction of food may increase digging activity as they search more diligently for a smaller food supply.

Another consideration is all chemical treatments have to be re-applied on a permanent basis for impact. Always read and follow label instructions for safe use of insecticides.
To add insult to landscape injury, armadillos burrow under driveways, foundations and patios potentially causing structural damage. Additionally, their burrows in pastures pose a potential leg-injury hazard to livestock.

Burrows openings are approximately seven to eight inches in diameter, about the size of a one-gallon plastic jug, and up to 15 feet in length. The sandy soil is piled up right outside the burrow entrance. Armadillos usually rest in a deep burrow during the day and are most active after dark.

Because armadillos are nocturnal, trapping techniques designed to capture them as they emerge from their burrows should be applied late in the afternoon and checked several hours after darkness. Fencing is another potential option to discourage the presence of armadillos.

Several live-trapping techniques can be used to capture armadillos as they exit of their burrows. One method is to firmly insert a six-inch diameter PVC pipe into the entrance of an active burrow. Adult armadillos will get stuck in the pipe as they try to exit. Another option involves a nylon throw-net staked down to cover the burrow entrance. Armadillos will get tangled in the net as they emerge.

Some can be discouraged from returning to their burrows by filling the hole with a mixture of dirt and mothballs after they have departed for a night of foraging. Laying chicken-wire along a patio, driveway or house foundation will discourage burrowing.

Armadillos can also be trapped using a raccoon-size metal trap, available from local pest control, feed and home improvement stores. These animals are more likely to enter a cage trap with leaf litter or soil placed over the wire bottom.

Suggested baits for the trap are live earthworms or meal worms in surrounding soil placed in hanging bags made of old nylon stockings. Overripe or spoiled fruit which will attract insects may be used as bait. Poison baits are illegal and no chemical repellents or fumigants are registered for use in Florida.

Relocating problem animals is not recommended because it only transfers the problem elsewhere and can spread disease.

To learn more about controlling armadillos contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office or read Baiting the Nine-banded Armadillo at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw362

5 Comments on “Armadillos: Midnight Lawn Marauders

  1. So you recommend killing armadillos? What’s the most humane way to do that?

    And by the way, when a coral snake comes in your yard, it is NOT a time to panic, as one homeowner did in Gulf Breeze last week. The responding policeman used a hoe to beat and hack the poor snake to death. What do you recommend for coral snakes (who are not that aggressive) and truly aggressive snakes like rattlers? Are there any applicable pamphlets I could get so we could make sure the police and fire departments get to learn the best way to handle those situations with hysterical homeonwers?

  2. I didnot sign up for a blog. I signed up for help in getting information about wildlife in housing developments. I already read the article about armadillos and wanted more specific information. And information not just aobut armadillos but also about snakes.

  3. Sigrid, I would recommend you add your email to the “Panhandle Outdoors” newsletter/blog. One of our Escambia agents, Rick O’Connor, writes frequently about snakes, their benefits, identification and handling encounters with them in a yard. You can also contact him directly at roc1@ufl.edu for specific questions.
    There’s lots of information available on this topic; however reducing a long-held fear is often more difficult than teaching folks to properly identify them.
    http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_series_dealing_with_snakes_in_floridas_residential_areas

  4. Thanks. I will go to the website and email address you gave me. I had just read an article in the Gulf Breeze News about a coral snake in someone’s front yard. I think the police, who responded to the homeowner’s call, could have done something other than hack the snake to death. I had a coral snake in my yard several years ago, and I was fascinated: I waited it out and finally it moved on. I would have have acted differently if my over-eager dog wanting to catch it was out there with me! I just wanted to see if there is some guide for responders to snake calls.

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