Armadillo FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

I get a lot of questions about armadillos. Some of the questions are answered in other parts of this website (like the Ask Me or the Armadillo Facts pages). Some of them were new to me, and until now were not listed elsewhere. As a result, I decided to add a FAQ page to Armadillo Online. Hopefully this will answer some of the questions you may have regarding armadillos.

Armadillo Questions

1. How do I stop an armadillo from tearing up my property?

It really depends on what part of your property you are trying to protect. If it is a small area, like a flowerbed, you can sprinkle mothballs to keep the animals away. They don’t like the smell. If you are talking about your whole yard, the only really effective solution is to put up a fence, buried at least 1 foot into the ground to prevent them from tunneling under. This is not an elegant solution, nor is it an inexpensive one, but it is the only way you can be really sure that your yard will not become an armadillo’s insect buffet.

Other remedies (not as foolproof, but less expensive) include leaving your dog chained up outside at night, to scare off potential lawn-wreckers, and leaving out food at a different spot to lure them away from your lawn. Of course, you are then either stuck with a barking dog all night, or the expense of maintaining an armadillo feeder that is sure to attract all kinds of neighborhood wildlife. If you live in armadillo territory, you will get armadillos in your yard; that’s the risk you run. My best advice is to learn to live with it, or move to where the armadillos are not around. (If you can’t stand the flooding, move away from the river … ) For more information, see the Armadillo Problems page.

2. How can I remove a problem armadillo from my property?

Removing an armadillo that has burrowed in your yard or under your house can be quite a problem. You must first evict the animal from its den, and then close up the hole so it can’t return. Throwing mothballs down the hole can help encourage the armadillo to come out. You can place a live trap over the opening, so that it will be caged as it emerges; make sure you release it well away from your property so it won’t find its way back. If you are trying to trap it in the yard, you can use earthworms in a nylon stocking as bait. Once you know it is out of the hole, you can fill the hole in with dirt. To keep it from returning, you can bury a section of chain-link fence against the foundation of your house or shed (or whatever it burrowed under). This won’t stop the animal from digging near your foundation, but it won’t be able to dig underneath it. For more information, see the Armadillo Problems page.

3. Are armadillos dangerous?

Not really. They are wild animals, and any wild animal should be treated with caution and respect, but the average armadillo is not a dangerous creature. They are capable of harming people with their strong claws if they are handled incorrectly, but in most cases they will run away when they feel that they are in danger. Most people who have had encounters with the animals have reported that the armadillo pretty much ignored them unless they did anything overtly threatening. If you have a pet, you needn't worry: Even a very small dog (such as a teacup poodle, chihuahua, Great Dane, or other small breed) should be in no danger from an armadillo.

4. Do armadillos carry diseases, such as leprosy?

Wild armadillos have been known to be infected with the bacterium that causes leprosy (Hansen’s disease). The only cases of transmission from armadillos to humans have occurred in rare incidents in which people ate undercooked armadillo meat. If you have a pet (such as a dog, cat, or two-year old) that has recently interacted with an armadillo, you needn't worry about the danger of your pet becoming infected. So long as your dog, cat, or two-year old hasn't been dining on armadillo sushi, you have little cause for concern. Even if your pet does bite an armadillo, the risk of infection is quite low. Your pet is much more likely to be in danger of illness do to encounters with raccoons (prone to rabies), other dogs, cats or children than a (mostly) harmless armadillo.

5. Do people really eat armadillos?

Yes. In many areas of Central and South America, armadillo meat is often used as part of an average diet. I have heard that some peoples of South America keep small varieties of armadillos as edible housepets. During the Depression, armadillos were often eaten by hungry people. They were called “Hoover hogs” by people angry with then-President Herbert Hoover’s broken promise of a chicken in every pot. The meat is said to taste like fine-grained, high-quality pork.

6. Is an armadillo’s shell really made of bone?

Yes, it is. The shell is made up of thin bone plates, known as scutes. The armadillo is the only mammal that has bone plates in its skin. Fossilized scutes have been found in South America that are up to fifty million years old. Scutes as old as forty thousand years have been found in North America, around Illinois.

7. Do armadillos make any noises?

Armadillos make grunting sounds as they forage for food. They also may squeak or squeal when they feel threatened. The screaming hairy armadillo is especially known for the loud squeals it makes.

8. Do armadillos really smell bad?

Armadillos produce a musky odor that some people find to be repulsive. The scent seems to be stronger when they feel threatened.

9. Why do armadillos get hit by cars so often?

Three reasons. First, armadillos will eat carrion, which in the US is often roadkill. Animals that eat roadkill often become roadkill themselves, because they are on the road more often than other animals are. Second, armadillos are nocturnal. It is hard to see animals by the side of the road at night, so it is harder for motorists to avoid hitting them. Third, armadillos jump up in the air when they feel threatened. This often works to startle a predator, but against an automobile it doesn’t work; they just end up jumping right into the front or underside of the car, with disastrous results.

10. Where in the United States am I likely to see an armadillo?

In the US, armadillos can be found all over the Southeast. They are scarce in the drier areas of Texas, and are not currently found west of the Rockies. The northernmost places that armadillos have been spotted are Nebraska the southern tip of Indiana, although this are probably isolated cases and not established populations. Due to their inability to withstand extremely cold weather, it is not likely that they will increase their range any further north than Nebraska in the midwest. They could spread farther to the northeast, and would probably do well as far north as Vancouver if intorduced to the west coast. For more information, see the Armadillo Expansion page.

11. Where can I buy an armadillo (Live or dead, for food or otherwise)?

I know of no company or restaurant that sells live armadillos. I have heard that some shops in San Francisco’s Chinatown sell dead armadillos for food.

12. What color is an armadillo?

They range from brown to khaki to a pebbly grey. For a better color description, go to the Armadillo Species page, and look at the pictures there to see for yourself.

13. How long do armadillos generally live?

I’m not exactly sure about this one. The best information I have about the lifespan suggests up to 20 years in captivity for the nine-banded armadillo. Extrapolating from other similar-sized mammals, I would guess that the average lifespan in the wild would be between five to seven years. Lifespan information for many of the armadillo species are included on the Armadillo Species page.

14. How big does an armadillo get?

An adult nine-banded armadillo is about the same size as an average housecat. The body length ranges from 15 to 17 inches; the tail is 14 to 16 inches long. They weigh between 8 and 17 pounds; males are heavier than females. Weight and body length information for all of the armadillo species are included on the Armadillo Species page.

15. Do armadillos really always give birth to four identical young?

Yes and no. The nine-banded armadillo nearly always gives birth to four identical pups, just as humans nearly always give birth to one child at a time. However, just as people sometimes give birth to twins, armadillos will occasionally bear litters of three or five pups. Despite the number, the pups are always identical. They form from the same egg, share the same placenta during development, and are all the same sex. This regular production of genetically identical offspring is known as “polyembryony”. The identical quadruplets make armadillos valuable to medical researchers as an animal model for multiple births. Members of the genus Dasypus, including the nine-banded and seven-banded armadillos, are the only ones that exhibit polyembryony. Other types of armadillo, like the giant or six-banded armadillos, only produce one baby per fertilized egg.

16. I heard that armadillos will dig up and eat dead bodies. Is this true?

This unfortunate rumor comes from the armadillo’s inclination to dig where the dirt is soft, such as a freshly-filled grave. They aren’t after anything more than the insects in the dirt. They dig there for the same reasons that birds follow a plow as it turns the soil — that’s where the bugs are the easiest to find. People sometimes call armadillos “gravediggers” as a result of this myth. Some armadillo species will eat carrion, but they don’t actively seek out dead humans. For more information on the dietary habits of armadillos, see the Armadillo Species page.

17. Do armadillos destroy crops?

Farmers have blamed armadillos for ruining melon crops, among other things. Raccoons are probably the biggest culprits. Armadillos seem to suffer from the same problem that hyenas do — their bad reputation appears to be a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. When farmers come out in the mornings, the slow-moving armadillos are seen taking advantage of the raccoon’s leftovers, so they get the blame for ruining the crop. (Hyenas were long thought to be scavengers, because when naturalists observed them at dawn on the savanna, they were seen skulking around behind the lions feasting on a fresh kill. Thanks to night observations, we now know that the lions often steal a carcass that the hyenas actually hunted down and killed.) The giant armadillo is considered an agricultural pest by some South American farmers. They do eat some fresh shoots, but mostly are responsible for digging up fields in search of insects. For more information on the dietary habits of armadillos, see the Armadillo Species page.

18. Do armadillos eat bird eggs or chicks, like quail?

Some people have accused them of doing so, but it probably isn’t a very likely scenario. Game hunters have suggested that the decline in population of ground-nesting birds is related to armadillo predation. The rise in the cat population in the US is probably much more to blame; feral cats and housecats alike are wreaking havoc on the small animal populations worldwide. Although armadillos will eat carrion, such as dead birds, they don’t appear to actively hunt for eggs or chicks. For more information on the dietary habits of armadillos, see the Armadillo Species page.

19. What are baby armadillos called?

Baby armadillos are called “pups”. This is a question that I’ve gotten quite a few times, and it took me a long time to find the answer. As for the adults — well, see the next question…

20. What are the parents called?

That question isn’t one I have been able to fully answer so far. Many different kinds of mammals have special names for males (such as buck, ram, bull, boar, and so on) and for females (such as ewe, dam, cow, doe, and so forth). To the best of my knowledge, male armadillos are just called “males”, but I have heard them anecdotally referred to as “rams” as well. Female armadillos are just called “females”, or occasionally “does”. Just because I haven’t heard other names doesn’t mean that they aren’t called something else, and rams & does may not be accurate. Group names are something else altogether. Many types of animals were given fanciful group names at some time or another (a murder of crows, an exaltation of larks, a crash of rhinos, a sleuth of bears, etc.).

Again, I have never heard of a group name for armadillos. This is probably due in part to the fact that they’re a “New World” species, and most of the neat group names were given to European animals; also, armadillos tend to be solitary, so there really isn’t a need for a group name for an animal that is usually seen by itself, is there? If I had to make up a name for armadillo groups, I would probably suggest a few of the following: A shell of armadillos, or a tunneling of armadillos, or a ruined flowerbed of armadillos. For special situations, like armadillos near a roadside, I might also suggest a splattering of armadillos, given their long association with roadkill jokes.

Website and Other Questions

I. Can I contribute to help support your site?

Sure! I got by for 17 years relying on the web space provided by Michigan State University, but when they informed alumni in 2012 that access to web space would be revoked, I asked the community for donations. This site exists today because a small number of people were willing to donate towards keeping it alive. If you would like to contribute, please see the Donate page.

II. Why can’t I see some of the pictures on the "Species" pages?

Some of the pictures are owned by the University of Michigan’s Animal Diversity Web, used with permission. Their terms of use stipulate that any pictures I use must not be saved locally. Their web server also limits access to people at educational institutions. So, if you are trying to view the page from a non-educational server, the U of M server won’t necessarily let you see the pictures. Sometimes it will let you see the small picture, but not the larger linked image. I apologize to anyone who can’t see the images. I have removed many of the images that do not show up. If you happen to have a nice photograph of an armadillo species not already included on my website, please feel free to donate it. See the links at the bottom of the Armadillo Species pages for instructions.

If the pictures are just too small, try clicking on them to view a larger version. The image lightroom effect is done with jQuery and fancyBox. For more information about the code used to generate the image pop-ups, visit the fancyBox website.

III. Why can’t I print one of the pages on this website?

I updated the page formatting, so printing should be easier now — if you’re using a modern web browser, that is. Most web browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, and recent versions of Internet Explorer) will all automatically reformat any page on this website when you hit “print”. Older browsers might generate some problems. I no longer test the site on most older browsers, other than to ensure that all content will be accessible. If you’re using an old browser, you really should update to a newer one so long as your computer can handle it! Newer browsers are more secure, they crash less often, and they do a much better job rendering the web pages you will visit.

IV. May I copy part of your site to use on my web page?

That depends on what you wish to copy. The content of this site is published under a Creative Commons attribution/share-alike license. (For the full, official rules, click the CreativeCommons link button at the bottom of the page.) In short, you are free to re-use, re-mix, or quote from this site, as long as you follow a couple of rules: First, you must give credit to the author — in this case, me. You can either list the website, the writer’s name, or provide a link to the page you borrowed from. Just like a school paper, use without credit is plagiarism, not to mention copyright infringement. Second, any new material published using content from this site must be licensed using the same CreativeCommons deed. Finally, you are NOT allowed to use any content from this site for comercial use. As for page images, you may not use any images other than the “Armadillo Enhanced” link button. See the next question for an explanation.

V. May I copy some of your pictures to use on my web page?

I’d like to say yes to this, but I really can't. In short, most of the pictures on this site do not belong to me, therefore I do not have permission to give them away. Some images are owned by the University of Michigan’s Animal Diversity Web. All of these pictures are used with permission, and none of the ADW pictures I use are saved locally, as requested by their usage restrictions. The rest of the pictures have been submitted to me by readers or obtained from sites that provide clear fair-use guidelines or copyright-free images. In general, I have been given permission to use the pictures on my page, but as I have not received express permission to redistribute the pictures, I can’t legally give you permission to use them yourself. I would also ask that you not link to the pictures on my page, as this is poor web practice and it increases the server load. Aside from the pictures themselves, the other graphics were created by me; you can use the "Armadillo Enhanced" link button if you want, but I would appreciate it if you would refrain from using the others. If you really need an armadillo photo to use in a report, or on your own site, you should try checking Wikipedia. All images used on the Wikipedia site have clearly defined permissions for use, and nearly all may be used so long as credit is given to the authors.

VI. May I make a link to your page?

Sure, go ahead, with one restriction: No links from creepy pages, OK? I’m not into some of the sick things people put online, and I would really rather not encourage the sick people who look at these pages to wander on into my website. (I only mention this because I have been informed in the past that at least one fairly disgusting page was linked to mine.) If you want a link button to place on your page, click here.

VII. Will you make a link to my page?

Not necessarily. I had a very long list of links at one time, and after thinking it over I decided that I was going to remove anything that wasn’t directly related to armadillos. No armadillo info, no link. If I didn’t get at least one page of semi-serious facts, I didn’t link the site. It makes it easier for people who are trying to find armadillo info, and it makes it easier for me to maintain the list.

VIII. Why doesn’t this page have any advertisements?

I don’t like them, for one thing. If you are searching for armadillos, why do you want to see advertisements? I certainly don’t want any banner ads on my website. I’m not selling anything, and I am not trying to make any money off of this site. The only ads you will see here are added by the search engine — if I could afford to pay for an ad-free search, I would do so.

IX. How long has Armadillo Online actually been online?

I put the first draft of this page on my Michigan State University web server space in the spring of 1995. I wrote it out by hand on a piece of notebook paper after studying an online HTML primer. It was very, very basic — black text, grey background, one page, one picture. Slowly it improved, word got around, search engines picked it up, and here you are, looking at it right now. The current version of the site is the third major redesign of the site layout. The only recent change is a move to the current hosting (Dreamhost) and web address ( in 2012, when Michigan State University informed alumni that old websites would be shut down.

X. How much time do you devote to keeping this site up?

I used to spend way, way too much time, for no other reason than the fact that it’s been up long enough for me to feel responsible for keeping it going. As I’ve moved on to full-time research I have not been able to do more than cosmetic updates to the site for several years now.

XI. How popular is this page?

I did not have a hit counter for a very long time, because I didn’t want to pay for one, or place an unwanted advertisement on my web page. I was using an “invisible” free counter from AOL / Netscape’s Website Garage from March 2000 until July 2002, when I was notified that AOL was discontinuing the service. During the 2 years plus that the hit counter was running, I had about 44,000 visitors, averaging about 50 visits per day. In November of 2005 I finally found a new free counter from StatCounter that didn’t add a huge banner ad along with it. As of April 2011 the site had over 2 million page loads. I finally closed out the StatCounter link because it was generating errors in Internet Explorer. I'm trying to use Google Analytics from here on out. But for a personal hobby website, I feel it’s pretty popular.

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Nocturnal means “active at night”. Other nocturnal animals are bats, owls, and most rodents. An animal active during the day, like humans, would be called diurnal. Animals active only at dawn and dusk are called crepuscular.