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Armadillo – The Little Armored One


  • Armadillos have tiny mouths and small peg like teeth used for grinding, therefore they do not bite.
  • They are the only mammal with a hard shell. They fleeing into thorny patches that predators avoid and dig their way to safety.
  • Armadillos are studied in fertility research because their embryo splits into four; birth is always four identical pups.
  • Babies leave their mothers around six months of age.
  • They travel alone, you will not find a family of armadillos together.
  • When the armadillo is taken by surprise, such as when a vehicle is approaching, their natural instinct is to jump straight up.  This jump aligns an armadillo perfectly with the grill of small or midsized cars.


If you are traveling on Missouri highways this summer, you may pass by some unusual “road-kill”.  Armadillos have expanded beyond their typical southern habitat and are now seen in southern Missouri, with some sightings as far north as the Missouri-Iowa border.  Reasons for their habitat expansion are unclear, but some point to milder winters which suits this cold intolerant species well.


Armadillos are nocturnal and non-aggressive animals, sleeping during the day deep inside their burrows, and appearing at night to dig and forage for food.  They can be a big nuisance for homeowners because of their natural tendency to dig deep tunnels, which can be located under existing structures, such as sidewalks, AC units, fuel tanks or the foundation of the home.  With less dirt underneath, cracks or even collapse of the structure can occur.  Because of the threat of extensive damage, homeowners want to remove armadillos from their property, and this is when most contact between people and armadillos can occur.


Although the armadillo is not aggressive, it is a wild animal that can potentially spread disease to humans if handled or eaten.  As with any wild animal, armadillos can transmit rabies, although this is very rare.  The most interesting fact about these creatures might surprise you:  armadillos are one of relatively few species with a low enough body temperature to host the leprosy bacteria.  While this may sound alarming, actual cases of leprosy transmitted from armadillos are extremely rare. Leprosy, which is also known as Hansen’s Disease, cannot be passed on just by being near an armadillo, there must be physical contact with the body fluids of an armadillo. Even then, the risk for transmission is very low. So before you start to worry, consider these facts:

  • More than 95% of all people have natural immunity to the disease.
  • Leprosy is highly treatable with standard antibiotics.
  • There are only 150-250 cases of leprosy in the United States every year, but most of those are from individuals traveling outside the country.
  • The exact amount is not known, but only a very small number of the leprosy cases in the United States are from armadillos.


The best way to avoid contracting the leprosy bacteria from an armadillo is to keep your distance. 

  • Do not dig in soil that has obvious armadillo excrement (waste) present.
  • If you have hit an armadillo with your vehicle, promptly wash down any area of where blood is seen.
  • Do not eat armadillo meat.
  • If there is an armadillo in your yard, it is best to hire a professional wildlife trapping company.  Armadillos are very difficult to trap, in addition there are various state and local laws regarding the trapping and handling of armadillos. 

For any questions or concerns, call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222. Specially trained nurses and pharmacists are available 24/7/365 to answer your questions. The service is free and confidential.


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