Most people are familiar with the clumsy-looking nocturnal quadrupeds, and we’ve surely all seen them smashed on the highway; however, these rather benign encounters don’t necessarily make us aware of the risks they could pose to our health.
On top of causing damage to yards due to their rooting and burrowing, recently armadillos have been accused of possibly being able to spread leprosy to humans! Find out more about armadillos to see if you are at risk, and learn how you can protect yourself.
Armadillos have a distinctive shell of ‘horny’ material on their heads, bodies and tails. This shell, or armor, sports 9 movable rings, from the shoulder down to the hip. Their heads are small, with a pointed appearance, due to their long narrow snout.
Their tails are similarly shell-like, encased in 12 bony rings. Additionally, armadillos have 7 to 9 pig-like teeth on each side of their upper and lower jaw, three toes with sharp claws on each foot, and weigh between 8 to 17 pounds.
Found primarily in the Southern United States, they span the areas from South Texas, to the Southeastern tip of New Mexico, through Oklahoma, to the southeastern corner of Kansas, the southwestern corner of Missouri, across most of Arkansas, southwestern Mississippi, central Alabama, Georgia and most of Florida.
The armadillo’s habitat is usually dense, with shady cover such as brush, woodlands, forests and areas adjacent to creeks and rivers. These areas have sandy or loam soils that are loose and porous, as well as cracks, crevices and rocks.
Armadillos eat mostly insects and their larvae, as well as invertebrates like earthworms, scorpions and spiders. A minority of their diet is made up of fruit and vegetable matter, as well as vertebrates like lizards, small frogs and snakes, and the eggs of these animals.
The Link between Armadillos and Leprosy
Did you know that armadillos are the only species apart from humans that can be infected with leprosy? In July, nine people reported contracting the disease, and all of them claimed to have come into contact with an armadillo prior to infection.
The bacterium causing Leprosy has an incubation period of three to seven years in humans before any symptoms start showing. While it was previously thought that leprosy could only be spread between humans, based on the genetic similarity of the leprosy bacteria examined from humans and armadillos, it is almost certain that leprosy can be spread from armadillos to humans.
Conclusion of the Florida Case
The number of people falling ill in the report isn’t far from the average number of people who contract leprosy ever year in Florida, which is ten. Still, all animals are able to spread some kind of infections to humans, so all precautions should still be taken with wild animals.
Damage Prevention and Control Methods
Here are some tips to preventing armadillos from entering your property.
Keeping armadillos out with a fence or other barriers could be an effective method, especially if the fence can be slanted outward at a 40 degree angle, with a portion of it buried.
Removal of armadillo’s usual habitat, such as brush or bushes, is also an effective method.
Repellents and Toxicants
Despite what the repellant aisle of the local home center may have you believe, unfortunately none are known to be effective.
While some are known to be effective, not all are legal as regulations vary. You must check with your local authorities for information on pesticides that are legal in your area.
Traps can also be set, with live or box traps, such as Havahart, Tomahawk, or homemade types. This should be done carefully, as traps must be set strategically along pathways to armadillo burrows and along fences or other barriers. It’s best to use traps that can be opened at both ends.
It can be difficult to ensure it only captures armadillos and no other animals, so we don’t recommend attempting this route unless you’re sure of the location of your prey, or you’re comfortable explaining to your neighbors why Mr. Fluffy got caught in your trap.
Many rural residents will be familiar with the practice of setting up an evening watch with a .22 or other small caliber firearm to put an end to the nighttime excavating, but this isn’t a solution we necessarily endorse.
Given how closely people live to one another nowadays, you should definitely exercise good judgement and care with this method, and check the local laws and ordinances before proceeding.
Finally, since most of the damage armadillos cause is a result of their rooting for insects and other invertebrates in the soil, soil insecticides may be used to remove this food source and make areas less attractive to armadillos.
Making sure you’re free and clear of the risks of armadillos takes time and expertise. Save time and hassle – Dugas Pest Control will help remove armadillos off specified areas with our safe and effective methods, with no angry neighbors involved!