Seems as though many questions that don’t have great answers end up at the Extension office. And quite a few times over the past few weeks, dealing with armadillo damage had been a common complaint.
Armadillos are native to an area from south Texas to the southeastern tip of New Mexico. You’d be hard pressed to find armadillos in the Texas panhandle and further west than Midland/Odessa. They do live as far north as the bottom corners of Kansas and Missouri. Heading east, armadillos are in most of Arkansas, southwestern Mississippi, and all the way east to Florida.
Armadillos eat mostly insects, 90% of their diet in fact. They love insects, their larvae, and readily feed on earthworms, scorpions, spiders, and other invertebrates as well. Occasionally, they’ll eat some fruit and vegetable matter such as berries and tender roots.
The like to live in areas exactly like what we have: dense, shady cover such as brush, woodlands, forests, and areas adjacent to creeks and rivers. The armadillo is active primarily from twilight through early morning hours in the summer. In really cold winters, it may be active only during the day.
Don’t let their lumbering appearance deceive you, while the armadillo has poor eyesight, they do have a keen sense of smell. And in spite of its cumbersome appearance, the agile armadillo can run very well when in danger.
Have you ever heard armadillos can walk across the bottom of a body of water? It’s true. Though a good swimmer, armadillos are also able to walk across the bottom of small streams.
But they can ruin a lawn. They use their narrow, pig-like snout to root in lawns and flower beds for food.
And that’s when the question come, “how can I get rid of them?”
You can tell damage from an armadillo as a triangular sort of hole in your lawn, one that is exactly the same as the size of their snout. Characteristic signs are shallow holes, 1 to 3 inches deep and 3 to 5 inches wide. They also uproot flowers and other ornamental plants. Occasionally, damage has been caused by their burrowing under foundations, driveways, and other structures.
If it looks like someone took a garden tiller or plow to your lawn, that will probably be hogs. We’ll cuss them on a different day.
Getting rid of armadillos can be done, but is difficult. There are no registered repellants, toxicants or fumigants. A good home remedy that I’ve heard about and repeated is using Cayenne pepper, liberally, around the affected are to repel them. The idea is their nose would be too offended to probe there. The problem is that the pepper can easily be washed away with rain and may simply move the armadillos to a new site in your lawn!
Trapping is possible but requires a little skill and a simple setup. Use a live or box trap that is at least 10 x 12 x 32-inch, such as Havahart, Tomahawk, or homemade types. The best locations to set traps are along pathways to armadillo burrows and along fences or other barriers where the animals may travel.
If you’re not sure which direction they are coming from, the best trap is the type that can be opened at both ends.
A traps effectiveness can be enhanced by using a couple pieces of lumber, at least 6 feet long each, at each side to funnel them into the entrance. Use whatever scrap 4-inch or 6-inch wide lumber you have. Interestingly, this set does not need baiting. However, I always recommend a bait such as overripe or spoiled fruit. My good friend, and our state trapper Greg Ashabranner, says overripe bananas are the best.
It is legal to shoot armadillos and many folks choose to go that route. Visiting with a friend at church who’s lawn has suffered from armadillo damage, Buford told me wasn’t that interested in staying up all night just hunt an armadillo.
Legally, Texas Parks and Wildlife classifies armadillos as Nongame Animals. Nongame animals have no closed season. These animals may be hunted at any time by any lawful means or methods on private property.
Interestingly, their rules also go on to state “Possession and sale of live armadillos is unlawful.” So, if you trap one, you can’t keep him!
And let’s be clear, Lufkin City ordinance does prohibit the discharge of firearms. Certain exemptions may apply, but I’ll have to refer you to Zoning Ordinances, Article 3, C. Supplemental Regulations, paragraph 2, (1), (B) located on pages 6 and 7.
So, be it the beloved earthworm that we so want to have in our soils or the despised grub worm that eats up plant roots, both attract armadillos. They aren’t the worst of our problems by any means and can typically be considered nuisance pest, not worthy of spending too much money to control.
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.