Story at a glance
- Armadillos, which typically traverse the southern United States, have begun to encroach upon habitats farther north.
- Since first being discovered in North Carolina in 2007, the armadillo population has continued to boom.
- Researchers believe the expansion in its habitat stems from climate change.
Armadillos, known to traverse the southern United States, have begun to encroach upon habitats farther north.
Jason Bullard, a member of Mountain Wildlife Management, went from being tasked to kill 15 armadillos in North Carolina in 2020 to killing eight of them in just two weeks.
The first time he was dispatched for an armadillo sighting in the Blue Ridge Mountain town of Sapphire in 2019, “I just didn’t believe it,” Bullard told The Guardian. “I thought the woman had a possum and a drinking problem.”
Well-known to inhabit Texas due to its dry climate and largely flat habitat, biologists and researchers believe the animal’s exploration into new areas, such as the Blue Ridge Mountains’ mountainous range and high precipitation rates is an indication of the effects of climate change.
“Armadillos are a pretty good climate change indicator species,” John MacGregor, a herpetologist at the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, told UPI in 2018. “When things that don’t tolerate cold climates are suddenly appearing in a cold area, it tells me that area is getting warmer.”
And as global temperatures continue to increase, researchers expect the range in which armadillos are found will continue to grow, as well.
“It’s only a matter of time before we see range expansions into other states,” Colleen Olfenbuttel, furbearer biologist for the North Carolina wildlife resources commission, told The Guardian.
In March 2019, a resident in Virginia’s Buchanan County reported the state’s first armadillo sighting.
The armadillo’s habitat growth is further complicated by an increase in reproduction rate, with female armadillos being capable of giving birth to quadruplets multiple times. Though humans are largely the biggest predator threatening armadillos, the animal’s feeding on insects and tendency to burrow can wreak environmental damage on new habitats.
“It’s challenging to deal with armadillo damage. They are hard to trap and I don’t know if there’s a repellent for them,” said Olfenbuttel. “I’m as curious as anyone as to where they will pop up next.”
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