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Armadillo Dilemma: To Kill or Not to Kill

Armadillo hide-out.
Armadillo hide-out.

So last summer I noticed an armadillo had moved into one of the ginseng nursery beds. It’s been a destructive force in the area since it arrived a couple of weeks ago. I wrote this post while trying to decide what to do the situation. I thought it would be a good time now to update and let everyone know the outcome.

What would you do? Kill the armadillo or let it live?

Why a dilemma to me?

First of all, I don’t like to kill anything unless we’re going to eat it. I’m not going to eat an armadillo.

But the armadillo is causing havoc. Wild Ozark grows wild-simulated American ginseng, which is indistinguishable from wild except on a genetic level– maybe. There are some who say all ginseng is the same, and some (like me) who believe there are local cultivars for each of the native regions… if those cultivars haven’t been diluted out of existence by genetic pollution from years of seeds being planted sourced from outside sources. Here’s a link for more reading on that: http://www.wildginsengconservation.com/GeneticPollution.html.

Anyway, back to the armadillo. The critter isn’t eating the ginseng, but the grubs and earthworms that live in the ginseng patch.

If I let this go and allow Nature to determine what happens next, the armadillo will continue to tear up ginseng rootlets as it hunts earthworms at night.

Armadillos are not native here. Neither are the earthworms. Am I native here? At least on a human-level, I think I am.

There is evidence that humans lived here many thousands of years ago. Not so for the cute little leprosy-hosting armored bandits. They migrated up from Texas, along with their road-runner friends.

At least the earthworms are beneficial and don’t harm the plant that is the  basis of our livelihood.

But the armadillo is also eating grubs, which are the larva of an insect (Japanese beetle) that also isn’t native. And the grubs do eat the roots of plants possibly including the ginseng.

So it could be doing me a service even if it is very destructive in the process.

Don’t fear the Armadillo-Leprosy connection

As a side-note, there’s no need to worry about the leprosy unless you’re cuddling armadillos. You can’t catch the disease just by inhabiting the same piece of ground. If you tend to eat armadillos, be sure to cook the meat thoroughly. There have been cases of it caught from undercooked armadillo meat.

What’s this about leprosy??

Our nine-banded Armadillos are the only mammal that can host the leprosy bacteria that has plagued humans for centuries. They’re used to study the disease in laboratories. I once turned down what might have been a very interesting lab job at Carville, Louisiana where leprosy is studied on the campus of what used to be the last remaining Leper’s Colony in the United States. The laboratory has since moved to nearby Baton Rouge.

If you do tend to play with wild animals, however, I’d leave the armadillo off of your list of critters to cuddle. Just in case. At least leprosy can be treated nowadays.

But that’s about as comforting to me as knowing that I can get rabies shots if I’m bitten by a rabid animal.  I’d just rather not.

Armadillo Decision

If I kill the armadillo, then I have interfered with Nature, right? If I don’t kill it, maybe it’ll help cut down on the Japanese beetle problem.

If I let the it live, then it will likely produce offspring, if it hasn’t already. Then those in turn will turn up even more of the nursery beds.

Even if it eats every last one of the grubs it’ll never run out of earthworms to devour. The grubs aren’t so much of an issue in our woods. The earthworms are doing a helpful job.

I feel that I myself am a natural part of Nature, and therefore have a right to defend territory I’ve marked as “mine”.

I’ll tell this to the invader later today. Then it can either leave or stay and face the consequences.

First I’ll try the live trap and relocation. If that doesn’t work, it’ll be on the hit list.

Update 2018: This past summer we had the largest invasion of japanese beetles I’ve ever seen here. I decided to leave the armadillo alone. Although many areas were uprooted and the ground was turned up, I did not notice a significant amount of loss of seedlings or mature plants. That armadillo probably ate more than its weight in japanese beetle grubs, though, and for that I am thankful. And willing to sacrifice a few plants.

11 thoughts on “Armadillo Dilemma: To Kill or Not to Kill”

  1. No need to kill the armadillo. If you apply some milky spore disease in the area all of the grubs will die and the armadillo will have to move on to find food.

  2. I believe we have a responsibility to help maintain the land we are responsible for. We don’t have problems pulling invasive weeds to protect natives, watering during hot spells or nourishing vegetable gardens. If we let ‘nature take its course’ in those areas we’d be living in thickets.

    I see no difference in dealing with invasive animals like squirrels, deer & armadillo. The #s will grow out of control without our intervention. That leads to overpopulation, then disease & destruction. And yes, if you don’t take care of the armadillo you have they will only grow worse. We used to never see them here 25 yrs ago & now they run rampant in the woods & farmland around us.

  3. The milky spore is specific to grubs, so no problem to the worms. When I used it in Louisiana it got rid of the grubs in the first summer and with them the armadillos. We still had plenty of worms so I guess the ‘possums on half-shells moved on to find more fat, juicy grubs.
    As far as armadillos being an invasive species, I have no issues with that. They were at one time common all the way into the Midwest, died off for some reason 11,000 years ago, and have been repopulating sine the middle of the 1800’s. They got here own, like the cattle egrets, so I feel they have as much right to the land as I do.
    They are beneficial in one sense, they eat the imported red fire ant. They can clean out a nest over night. Unfortunately they do leave a hole behind.

    1. I guess it’s pretty hard to prove one way or the other, but I’m happy with the arrangement. We generally try to leave the predator/prey balance here to nature, except when the chickens become the prey, ha. Stealing a chicken every once in a while is not a big deal, but if something comes back for seconds and thirds, then that’s crossing the line.

  4. It’s pretty hard to define what’s native to a place – seems like it depends on how long one’s time frame is. I have no problem with interfering with nature in the degraded landscape I work in – whether for removing invasive plants or planting native ones, it’s for the sake of better quality habitat.

    1. Yes, perspective is everything. I’m all for removing things that are definitely wreaking havoc without giving enough in return, like the honeysuckle and wild rose and cat briars. And if the armadillo begins taking more than he gives, he’ll have to go. I just like to see how the balance steadies before making a decision to kill something.

  5. Not native? What signifies boarders? I dont think animals know what state they’re from. And earthworms aren’t native either you say? Wow… just wow.

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