HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Armadillos are all over Alabama, but more often than not, you’ll see one as roadkill before ever encountering one in the wild.
According to outdooralabama.com, armadillos are covered in a hard, armored shell and aren’t easily confused with any other kind of animal in Alabama. They are typically grayish brown with yellow to white scales and a long-pointed snout.
The creatures range from 8 to 15 pounds and can grow up to 31 inches in length.
When did they get here?
According to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), armadillos were initially just seen in the Rio Grande Valley between Texas and Mexico, throughout Central America, and down into South America.
The species didn’t become common in the southeastern United States until the late 1800s.
ADCNR says that quick increase came from a number of factors, including fewer large carnivores in the area, climate and biotic changes, and some accidental, or deliberate, relocations. Armadillos are now found in the southern United States, even up to Missouri and all the way to Colorado.
Why do they get hit by cars so much?
According to armadillo-online.com, the nine-banded armadillo love to eat carrion, or the decayed skin of a dead animal. Obviously, that can be found in roadkill.
The website states that animals that eat roadkill often become roadkill themselves. Secondly, armadillos are nocturnal, making it harder for drivers to see them on the road at night.
The National Wildife Foundation wrote:
Nine-banded armadillos have a tendency to jump straight up into the air when they are startled, which often leads to their demise on highways.
They are small enough that cars can pass right over them, but they leap up and hit the undercarriage of vehicles.The National Wildlife Foundation
Finally, armadillos jump in the air and curl up when they feel threatened. That may work for some predators, but against a vehicle? Not so much.
Did you know…?
Armadillos are genuinely just very odd creatures. Here are just a few fun facts:
- The nine-banded armadillo is the official animal of the state of Texas.
- Armadillos have become a component in leprosy research.
- There is a variety of armadillos known as the “screaming hairy armadillo.” It’s pretty easy to figure out how they got that name once you see one.
- Armadillos can hold their breath for up to six minutes, and walk along the bottom of rivers.
- In some cases, armadillos have been food for humans. They have sometimes been called the “poor man’s pork” or “Hoover hog” by those who blamed President Herbert Hoover for the Great Depression.
Learn more about the nine-banded armadillo and other creatures native to Alabama and its surrounding states at outdooralabama.com/wildlife.