Experts: More armadillos making St. Louis home
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The nine-banded armadillo is settling into the St. Louis area after marching from Texas across the county for the last 169 years, according to wildlife experts.
Missouri Department of Conservation wildlife biologist Tom Meister told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that armadillos were first spotted in southern Missouri in the 1970s. The mammals are now sighted in every county in the state, Meister said.
Michael Beran runs the company Wildlife Command Center, which helps pick up roadkill in St. Louis County and responds to nuisance armadillo calls from residents. Beran said the St. Louis area saw a growing number of armadillos this year.
The Wildlife Command Center’s armadillo roadkill pickups roughly doubled from about five a month last year to around 10 to 12 a month this year, according to Beran.
“We’re on the cusp of the armadillo invasion,” he said.
The armadillo comes from South America. But only one species, the nine-banded armadillo, has made it to the U.S., starting in Texas in 1849.
Missouri State University professor emeritus Lynn Robbins was one of the first researchers to study armadillos in the state. He’s been tracking the animal’s travel and co-authored a type of armadillo census in 1996, when the animals were sighted only as far north as the Missouri River.
When Robbins updated the study in 2014, he found armadillos had made their way across the Mississippi River into southern Illinois.
“They just keep moving,” he said, adding that the mammals have since been spotted in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Wisconsin.
Armadillos need water and bugs to survive, and they can live in any area with a minimum average daily temperature of roughly 18 degrees in January. With winters growing warmer across the US, there are more areas that armadillos can find welcoming, according to Robbins.
Industrial development has also removed many of the animal’s predators and transformed grassland into areas where armadillos can live, such as parks and golf courses.
“We’ve changed the landscape,” Robbins said. “That means some animals die off, but the armadillo has taken advantage of all the change.”
This story has been corrected to show that the armadillo comes from South America, not South Dakota.