The nine-banded armadillo is native to Central and South America. But in the mid-1800s, these small armored mammals moved north into Texas.
Now, they’re found in much of the Southern U.S. – in places where it’s moist enough for the insects they eat, and warm enough for their furless bodies.
Olfenbuttel: “They’re our only mammal in the United States that has a true armor and while it’s great to protect them against claws and canines, from predators, it’s not the most ideal coating you could say to protect them from cold weather.”
Colleen Olfenbuttel of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission says winters in her state used to be too cold for armadillos. But as the climate warms …
Olfenbuttel: “… Our winters definitely have gotten more mild. We’re just not seeing the below-freezing temperatures like we used to.”
And armadillos seem to be responding.
Olfenbuttel: “Our first documented sighting of an armadillo in North Carolina occurred in 2008.”
Since then, armadillo sightings have been reported in almost half of the counties in the state.
It’s too soon to know how common armadillos will become in North Carolina – or what their impact will be. But Olfenbuttel says the fact that they’re found there at all is a sign of a warming climate.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.