If you live in Louisiana or have stopped in for a visit, odds are you've come across at least one armadillo. Armadillos are tiny, armored anteaters that love to dig. They dig dens near waterways like creeks and streams and dig for grubs and other insects. It is this habit of foraging in otherwise pristine yards that earns armadillos their mostly undeserved reputation as one of Louisiana's most unwanted nuisance animals.
Unlike other mammals, armadillos wear shells that affect their movement, but the animals are surprisingly flexible and can run and even hop. The Aztecs referred to these animals as turtle-rabbits, possibly a reference to their shelled appearance and their habit of hopping. Seriously, what would you name them? Little armored ones? That’s a little vague, isn’t it?
Our armadillos are of the nine-banded variety, named for the number of ridges on their shells. Although armadillos rarely bite, they have the dishonor of carrying Hansen's disease, otherwise known as leprosy. Handling and consumption of armadillos has been linked to the transmission of Hansen's to humans. If you leave them alone, and most importantly, don’t skin and eat them, you probably won’t catch the disease. For more on leprosy, visit the National Hansen's Disease Program website.
Armadillos in North Louisiana come out during the night and day, although they are more active at night. Believe me those little creatures make a huge sound crunching through leaves at night. Armadillos are omnivores that eat insects, plants, fruits, and, occasionally, carrion. They have extremely poor eyesight.
Armadillos are (unfairly I think) designated as “outlaw quadrupeds” by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. This designation means that armadillos in legal hunting areas can be hunted with a valid license year round. One reason for this designation is that armadillos have a bad reputation for property damage. By property damage, I mean digging up yards, not breaking your windows with errant baseballs.
When armadillos hunt, again, mostly at night, they do so by sense of smell. They use this sense to find and dig up ants, grubs, and other subterranean insects. Personally, I would rather have armadillos than insects in my yard! So, remember before you kill an armadillo, armadillos are an important part of the ecosystem. (OK…so are insects, but armadillos don’t sneak up on you and bite you).
Also remember that you might not want to get an armadillo’s blood on you, risk of leprosy and all. If you want these little guys gone, we suggest you try a local rehabilitator.
Where to Find North Louisiana Armadillos
Armadillos are found throughout North Louisiana. You can find them in your yard at night, at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and at the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge, along with pretty much anywhere else in the area.