Our office has been getting increasingly more calls about random holes in clients’ yards and their flower garden areas rooted up. After assessing photos and conducting site visits, it was quickly determined that armadillos were the offender. Armadillos can destroy flower beds, root up lawns and test the sanity of homeowners. They are considered an invasive species, and they seem to have more of a presence in Newton County than before. They can be found in all 159 counties in Georgia, but several studies suggest that further northward migration into the Appalachian Mountains will be limited.

Armadillo feeding activity can cause damage in a wide range of places, including lawns, flower beds, vegetable gardens, golf courses, sports fields, and orchards. Armadillos can even cause structural issues when they dig burrows around and under homes and buildings. The most common complaints against armadillos are from the extensive digging they do while searching for food. They feed on invertebrates that live in the upper layers of the soil. Using their long noses and forefeet, they can easily dig dozens of shallow holes in lawns or gardens overnight. The holes are typically three to five inches across and taper down to a point like an ice cream cone.

The armadillos we have in Newton County are a species called the nine-banded armadillo, and are about the size of an opossum or large house cat. They can be 24 to 32 inches long, with nine to 14 inches of that being the tail. The larger adult males can weigh between 12-17 pounds and appear brown to yellow-brown in color, with a hard, armor-like shell.

armadillo digging holes

Armadillos may carry diseases transmissible to humans, but reports are rare. Armadillos can acquire leprosy and are used in medical research to study this disease. However, very few cases are known in which a human contracted leprosy from wild armadillos. But, be careful if you encounter an armadillo in close range. They often jump several feet off the ground when frightened, and you can be injured if you’re too close.

Most methods used to reduce damage caused by wildlife don’t usually work with armadillos. There are currently no repellents, toxicants, or fumigants registered for use with armadillos. Fencing is not a great option because armadillos are good at both burrowing under and climbing over them. If you want to try exclusion fencing, you’ll need to install the fencing at a minimum of two feet high and 18 inches deep around the areas you’re trying to protect.

Armadillos aren’t the sharpest tool in the shed. If they hit a solid barrier, they will often follow this barrier until they can get around it. One method of capture that takes advantage of this habit has been to lure them into live traps using 1 x 6 boards placed in a V-arrangement in front of the trap to funnel the armadillo into the trap. Setting traps along natural barriers like logs or the side of a building can increase capture success. Placing the trap in front of a burrow entrance is better than random placement in the environment. But even with this strategy, capture rates can be low.

Due to armadillos being invasive, they can be hunted any time of the year. Check our city and county ordinances if you decide to do this.

It appears that armadillos are becoming more common in Newton County. If they become troublesome at your home or farm, try following the suggestions I’ve given. You can always call the Newton County Extension office for information on management of any nuisance wildlife you’re experiencing.

Ashley Best is the Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent with Newton County Extension Service. She can be reached at abest22@uga.edu.

Posted in: