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Armadillos are prehistoric-looking animals that belong to a family of mammals found primarily in Central and South America. The earliest fossil ancestor of our North American armadillo occurred about 60 million years ago; it was as large as a rhinoceros.
The nine-banded armadillo is a highly specialized mammal. It can be distinguished from other Kansas mammals by: 1) oval brownish body and long tapering tail which are protected with an armor of bony dermal plates covered by a tough epidermis or skin; the thick immovable shields on the front and hind parts are connected by nine moveable jointed plates that are band-shaped, and 2) large naked ears that are prominent on the slender head, which is also well armoured. Areas on the body without bony plates where sparse yellowish white hair occurs are the underparts, ears, base of tail, neck, and legs.
The peg-like teeth (about 32; range 28-36) are undifferentiated and, because they are absent in the front of the jaws, are presumed to be premolars and molars. On the front feet, the middle two (of four) claws are especially long, heavy, and sharp, while on the hind foot there are five claws, of which the three middle ones are long and stout, all being highly specialized for digging. There is no seasonal variation or sexual dimorphism. Adults may attain the following dimensions: total length 693-763 mm; tail 254-373 mm; hind foot 65-90 mm; ear 32-40 mm; weight 3.2-4.5 kilograms.
Habit: Armadillos inhabit dense shady cover, such as brush, woodland or pine forests. Soil texture is also a factor in the animalâ€™s habitat selection. They prefer sandy or loam soils that are relatively easy to excavate.Armadillos typically rest in a deep burrow during the day and become more active during the late evening, night, or early morning. These burrows are usually located under brushpiles, stumps, rockpiles, dense brush, or concrete patios, and are about 7-8 inches (18-20 cm) in diameter and can be up to 15 feet (4.5 m) long. Armadillos often have several burrows throughout their territory, but use only one to raise their young.
Life Cycle:A female produces only one litter each year, usually in March or April, after a 150-day gestation period. Armadillos are unique in that they give birth to four young, all of the same sex. Inside the female, one egg becomes fertilized. This egg then divides into four eggs, each one exactly the same as the first. These eggs grow into four identical young that resemble miniature adults. They are the only mammal that reproduces in this manner.
Armadillos do not tolerate freezing temperatures, and this fact has largely prevented them from moving farther north. As winter arrives, their food supply becomes scarce and frozen ground conditions prevent them from digging in search of food. To escape the cold, armadillos will retreat underground. However, they are unable to hibernate and will either freeze or starve to death in these conditions.
rmadillos will usually dig a burrow 7 or 8 inches in diameter and up to 15 feet in length for shelter and for raising young. Burrows are often located in rock piles, around stumps and brush piles, and in dense woodlands. They may often have several den locations in an area to use for escape.
Diseases: Compared to other common mammals such as raccoon and opossum, armadillos are remarkably free of parasites. Twenty-six parasites and disease agents have been identified from armadillos in Florida. These include 2 arboviruses, 19 bacteria, 2 protozoans, 1 nematode, and 2 mites. All except the nematode and mites may also infect humans or other animals, but no severe outbreaks of these situations have been reported. Rabies has never been diagnosed in armadillos.
Damage: Armadillos search for food, they dig small holes in the ground. These holes are about 3 inches wide and 5 inches deep. Armadillos will also uproot flowers and other vegetation in loose soils. This characteristic makes them particularly troublesome around gardens.
Methods of Control: Reducing watering and fertilizing your lawn will reduce armadillo damage. A moist lush landscape is perfect for earthworms and insect larvae. Armadillos love earthworms. Sometimes watering adjacent areas may attract armadillos away from a site.
Where highly valued plantings are in need of protection, small fences may be used to keep the animals out. These fences should be approximately 24 inches (60 cm) above ground with the bottom of the fence buried 18 inches below the surface of the ground. The fence also should be slanted outward at about a 40Â° angle.
Several live-trapping techniques can be used to capture armadillos as they come out of their burrows. One is to firmly insert a 6-inch diameter PVC pipe into the entrance of an active burrow. Regular-sized armadillos will get stuck in the pipe as they try to exit. A nylon throw-net used for fishing can also be staked down so it covers the burrow entrance. Armadillos will get tangled in the net as they emerge. Another trapping technique involves burying a large bucket (larger than 5-gallons) in front of the entrance, and covering it with newspaper or plastic sheeting and a light layer of soil.
Because armadillos are nocturnal, all trapping techniques designed to capture armadillos emerging from burrows should be applied late in the afternoon and checked several hours after darkness.Some armadillos can be discouraged from returning to burrows by filling the hole with a mixture of dirt and mothballs after you are sure they have left for the night. Constant filling of the hole will often prevent them from returning. Laying chicken-wire along a patio, driveway or house foundation will also discourage them from burrowing.
Armadillos also can be trapped in raccoon-sized, metal, cage live-traps (available from local pest control and feed stores) or in homemade box traps. Traps should be located near the entrance of burrows or along fences or other barriers where they might travel. This trap is most effective when â€świngsâ€ť (1 x 6 inch x 6 feet boards or other material) are added to funnel the animal into the trap. The benefit of using baits with this trap is questionable. Suggested baits are live earthworms or mealworms in surrounding soil placed in hanging bags made of old nylon stockings. Other suggested baits are overripe or spoiled fruit. Armadillos are more likely to enter a cage trap when leaf litter or soil is placed over the wire bottom.
Relocating problem animals to another area is not recommended. This approach only transfers the problem somewhere else, can enhance the spread of diseases, and upsets the natural balance in the area where the armadillo is released. Further, armadillos are not native to Florida and it is illegal to transport and release them. Shooting is another method frequently used to control nuisance armadillos where it is legal to discharge a firearm. Recommended firearms are a shotgun with No. 4 to BB-sized shot or .22 or other small caliber rifle. It is illegal to use artificial lights to aid in the shooting of armadillos at night. Armadillo meat is edible if properly prepared and there is no daily possession or season limit on them.
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