Bring On the Pepper Sauce!
"’Possum on the half shell." I believe it was comedian Jerry Clover who coined this funny name for armadillos. Armadillos have been in Alabama since the 1940s; and I’m told only the rocky, mountainous region of northeastern Alabama has been able to hold off their steady invasion. It is pretty often I get asked about how to get rid of these pesky critters, so I thought I’d address the topic.
"Why would someone want to keep armadillos away?" you might ask. Hmmm, let me see, now. Might it be because they dig up flowers and other plants in your yard? Might it be the damage they’re doing to your lawn plants in your yard? Might it be the damage they’re doing to your lawn and those coffee can-sized holes they dig all over the place? Might it be that you’ve heard they can carry the bacterium associated with human leprosy? Let’s take a closer look at this nocturnal bandit.
Think you might have a visiting armadillo in your yard? The tell-tale signs are the holes they dig in search of invertebrates in the ground. They enjoy worms, insects and grubs, and the holes armadillos leave behind are usually about three inches wide and five inches deep. They search for food mainly at night and can seem pretty oblivious to anything else (so they may come pretty close to you). When startled, they jump in the air! That characteristic is why you see so many dead armadillos on the side of the road "belly-up." When the vehicle passes over them, they jump up and hit the frame. Whoops!
What about this leprosy thing? Didn’t all that get cured a long time ago? Apparently not. Armadillos do carry the bacterium, but there has actually been no conclusive evidence they’re the ones spreading it to humans. Still, there have been case histories of armadillo handlers contracting leprosy in Texas (though they spent many years catching, handling, skinning and eating armadillos).
I guess a more important thing to detail would be "how to control armadillo damage." Live traps baited with overripe fruit, like apples or bananas, can be used to catch delinquent armadillos. Your trap can be made much more effective if you’ll add "wings" to it. Set the trap in an area where damage is occurring and then angle two boards (something like 1"x4" or 1"x6") out away from the front of the trap to help "funnel" the armadillo in. Captured armadillos may be released in another area...or you can skin and cook them with some turnip greens! The choice is yours.
Jerry A. Chenault is an Urban Regional Extension Agent with The Alabama Cooperative Extension System, New & Nontraditional Programs division.