Armadillos

Nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus).

Photo by USDI-Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Identification

Armadillos are a small group of mammals that occur only in the Americas.  They are distantly related to anteaters and sloths. The word “armadillo” is Spanish for “little armored one.”  

Legal Status

Armadillos are unprotected in most states. 

Physical Description 

The 9-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus, Figure 1) is an animal that has a protective armor of “horny” material on its head, body, and tail. The armor has nine movable rings between the shoulder and hip shield. The head is small with a long, narrow, piglike snout. Canine and incisor teeth are absent. Peglike teeth along the cheek range in number from 7 to 9 on each side of the upper and lower jaw. The long, tapering tail is encased in 12 bony rings. Armadillos weigh between 8 and 17 pounds. 

Species Range

Armadillos range from Texas to southeast New Mexico, through Oklahoma, southeast Kansas, southwest Missouri, Arkansas, and southwest Mississippi. Their range includes central Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, and has extended northward in recent times (Figure 2).  

Figure 2. Distribution of the armadillo in the US.

Image by Stephen M. Vantassel. 

Tracks and Signs 

Tracks usually include marks from the forward three toes and sharp claws (Figure 3). 

Voice and Sounds 

Armadillos make low grunting sounds when feeding or when mothers call their young. Other sounds are described as “wheezy grunt,” “pig-like,” “buzzing,” and “weak purring” by young armadillos while attempting to nurse. 

Figure 3. Tracks of an armadillo.

Image by Dee Ebbeka.