Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Armadillos in Missouri

Many people who live in the Saint Louis area have lately noticed an increase in armadillo sightings. 
Rustle, the World Bird Sanctuary's nine-banded armadillo (photo: Cathy Spahn)

In the past we would only spot armadillos if we were heading to the southern part of Missouri.  However, they are finding their way up here, and there have even been some sightings as far north as the Missouri/Iowa border.  This is mainly because of climate change.  The warmer winters have made the northern section of Missouri more adaptable for them to migrate north.  So, it will not be uncommon to see these guys more and more as the years go on.

Since armadillos are becoming more common in the Saint Louis area, we should learn about them and why it is important to have them around.  Armadillos are mammals. They have a thin layer of hair covering their entire body. Their “shell,” which is actually bony plates with softer skin in between, protects their head.  They generally weigh between 11 to 14 pounds.  They have a long sticky tongue to help them catch their food.  Due to the fact that they have poor eyesight, they rely on their ears and nose to detect food and predators.  Mating season in this area occurs from July to August.  The female always produces maternal quadruplets.

Armadillos are most active from dusk until dawn.  During the winter months, you will only encounter one during the warmest time of the day.  They construct their home by building burrows, using their long sharp claws.  They use soil and grass to construct the habitats within their burrows.  They are even known to steal habitats created by other armadillos or tortoises.  Their self defense mechanism consists of them jumping straight up into the air; this is why they are often struck by automobiles.  They jump instead of run.

So, why do we need these guys as a part of our ecosystem?  They eat the insects and their larvae that “bug” us so often.  That is enough for me to appreciate these creatures being in existence.  If you happen to see one of these guys while you are at the park or on a walk, enjoy watching them, but do not make physical contact with them.  They are capable of contracting leprosy and transferring it to humans.  Not to worry about Rustle, though.  He’s been checked by our vet and is disease free.

If you want to see and learn more about armadillos, come and visit our resident armadillo, Rustle. He lives in the World Bird Sanctuary Nature Center, and is always a favorite with our guests.  You can also go to our website and adopt Rustle for $150.00.  This will help feed Rustle and pay for his medical care for one year.

Submitted by Erica O’Donnell, World Bird Sanctuary Front Office Coordinator

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