Nashville, and for that matter even Middle Tennessee has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years and we’ve seen a lot of new neighbors take up residence, not all of them of human. Some of the newest residents to Davidson, Williamson, Rutherford and other Tennessee counties have made their way up from Latin America by way of the southwestern states of Texas and Louisiana. Who exactly are these new neighbors? The question would be more accurately presented as “What are these new residents to TN?!” They are small, leathery little creatures whose name is Spanish for little armored one…. The armadillo! Tennessee, especially the lower southern and eastern areas such as Chattanooga and Knoxville have seen its fair share of Armadillos in the past, though the sightings seem to have been far and few between, now those sightings are increasing almost daily.
There are 21 different species of armadillo and the one that is making its way here is the nine-banded armadillo. Nine-banded armadillos weigh 5.5–14.5 lb.The head and body length is 15–23 inches, which combined with the 10–21 in tail, makes a total length of 25–42 inches. They stand about 6-9 inches tall at the top of the shell. They are a pinkish brown color with strong large claws on their front feet that are designed for digging through soil. The outer shell is composed of leathery type plates which are connected by flexible bands of skin. This armor covers the back, sides, head, tail, and outside surfaces of the legs. The underside of the body and inner surfaces of the legs has no armored protection. Instead, they have tough skin and thick coarse hair for protection.
Contrary to popular belief, not all armadillos roll up in a ball when threatened. In fact, only one of the 21 species does so, and that is the three-banded armadillo. The others, including the nine-banded armadillo, jump 3-4 feet into the air before scurrying off to avoid danger. That 3-4 ft jump puts the armadillo right in line with the bumper of most vehicles and as such, this defensive reaction is one of the reasons we see so many that have been hit by cars and killed along the side of the road.
Armadillos are primarily insectivores. They, like their cousin’s the ant eater, have sticky tongues that they use to slurp up ants, termites and grubs from holes they dig in the ground. The armadillo has actually been seen rooting around ant hills causing the ants inside to flee from their home thus allowing rapid consumption by the armadillo. On occasion, armadillos have been observed supplementing their diets with small reptiles, amphibians and the occasional bird egg. They have even been known to occasionally consume fungi, seeds and some fruits.
The question that many may have is WHY are these little football-like animals moving to Tennessee? Armadillos have very low body fat and therefore, prefer warmer, humid, moisture rich habitats. Does that sound familiar? Yup! That’s Tennessee to a “T”. Our climate here in the Volunteer State has slowly been getting warmer and more humid, which makes it ideal for the armadillo. Granted, with that low body fat percentage, it is highly doubtful they will be seen anytime soon in the mountains, you can certainly expect to see more of them in the lower lying areas of middle TN.
Another question that I’m sure will cross the minds of everyone preparing for these new neighbors is one regarding potential diseases that the armadillo may carry. Yes, rumors are true that the armadillo can, and does, carry the bacteria that causes leprosy. Fortunately with the modern medicine we have today, it is rarely anything serious. As with any potential exposure to diseases, caution should be used when dealing with the armadillo. Never attempt to catch and remove an armadillo from the property yourself. Call on wildlife professionals to trap and humanely relocate it to a non-residential area. Ace Wildlife has certified professionals that are well trained & equipped to do just that. If you come across an armadillo, give Ace Wildlife a call at 615-876-7185 for quick and humane removal.