08/09/13 — Outdoors: Armadillos taking residence across state

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Outdoors: Armadillos taking residence across state

By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on August 9, 2013 1:48 PM

Everyone has done it.

Cruising down the highway drivers glance out the window and catch a brief glimpse of something in the grass. Unable to identify what they saw exactly, some report seeing mythical creatures like bigfoot or a chupacabra. Others think they saw a species not native to North Carolina such as mule deer or grizzly bears.

Wildlife officers have heard it all over the years.

One species that has been reported more and more frequently in North Carolina over the past three decades is the western armadillo, more specifically the nine-band armadillo. What at first seemed like a misidentification by passing motorists has become a reality.

Armadillos do live in the state and they are here to stay. That is why the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is asking hunters to report any interactions with the species during the fall hunting season. The heavily-armored visitors appear to be increasing their range and have moved into several eastern counties.

"Whether armadillos continue spreading beyond their current range will be largely determined by climate," WRC wildlife biologist Colleen Olfenbuttel said. "Mild temperature conditions are good for armadillos. Since they lack insulation and must dig for most foods, freezing conditions can cause them to starve or freeze to death."

Native to Central and South America, armadillos were first recorded in Texas in 1849 and have since expanded their range north and east, crossing the Mississippi River in the early 1940s and appearing in western Tennessee in 1980.

Armadillos have been spotted in Cherokee, Macon, Clay, Henderson, Cleveland, Catawba, Lincoln, Robeson, Bladen, Brunswick and New Hanover Counties in North Carolina.

The wildlife resources commission allows armadillos to be hunted year-round with no bag limit. Armadillos can be trapped during the regulated trapping season.

In the wild the armadillo's natural predators are feral pigs, black bears, bobcats, coyotes and foxes.

The public is encouraged to report observations of armadillos by contacting wildlife biologist Ann May at (919) 707-0068.