(WGHP) – North Carolina has seen more armadillos over the years with sightings reaching a new record in November 2021, according to the NC Armadillo Project.
During the month of November, seven armadillos were spotted in Buncombe, Cleveland, Graham, Henderson and Jackson counties. This is the first time that armadillos have been seen in Cleveland and Graham counties.
While it may not seem like much, it is the highest number of armadillos seen in the state in a single month to date. The previous record, five, was reached in March 2021.
So far in 2021, 34 armadillos have been spotted. This is almost double the 19 armadillos spotted in 2020. December is unlikely to add much more to that number, if at all; there were no sightings of armadillos in December in North Carolina, except for one in 2020.
In recent years, armadillos have been sighted in Avery, Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Gaston, Graham, Guilford, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, McDowell, Polk, Robeson, Scotland, Swain, Transylvania and Wake.
This wave of armadillos known to traverse the southern United States has moved to habitats further north, including North Carolina, according to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
The NCWRC is asking anyone who sees an armadillo to report it.
If you spot an armadillo in the wild, you can upload and share photos from the NC Armadillo Project, which launched in 2019.
The nine-banded armadillo is native to Central and South America and was first recorded in Texas in 1849.
Armadillos have since extended their range north and east, crossing the Mississippi River in the early 1940s, appearing in western Tennessee in 1980 and reaching North Carolina in 2007, according to the NCWRC.
âAs of December 2020, we documented armadillos in 23 counties, stretching from Cherokee counties to Dare counties,â said Colleen Olfenbuttel, a biologist who oversees armadillo expansion with the NCWRC. âWe have had reports of armadillos in 57 counties, but we cannot confirm all of these reports due to lack of photos or a carcass. And in at least four western counties the population has settled down. based on breeding evidence and young armadillos. “
Researchers in North Carolina believe armadillos are moving to new areas like the Blue Ridge Mountains because of climate change.
“The continued spread of armadillos beyond their current range will be largely determined by the climate,” said Olfenbuttel. âThe mild winter temperatures are good for armadillos. Since they lack thick insulation and have to dig for most foods, freezing conditions can cause them to starve or freeze to death. However, North Carolina experiences fewer extended periods of below freezing time, which allows armadillos to grow north. “
The range of armadillos in the north and south is expected to increase as global temperatures continue to rise.
âWe expect the armadillo will continue to naturally expand its range in North Carolina as their populations increase in North Carolina and adjacent states,â Olfenbuttel said.
Researchers say North Carolinians shouldn’t be worried about armadillos in the state.
âAlthough armadillos are often associated with leprosy, it is quite rare and can easily be avoided by wearing gloves if youâ¦ touch or handle an armadillo,â Olfenbuttel said. “The main problem we see with armadillos is the damage they can cause through their foraging behavior, as they will dig up gardens, flower beds, lawns, and golf courses to find insects, larvae and earthworms.
Click here to learn more about armadillos in North Carolina.
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