The nine-banded or long-nosed armadillo, Dasypus novemcinctus, is a common but non-native inhabitant of Florida and the only armadillo present in the U.S. Because of its often destructive feeding and burrowing habits in both rural and urban settings, most people who have an armadillo around their home consider it a serious pest. There are actually about 20 species of armadillos in the world and for information on the biology and behavior of these interesting critters I highly recommend the Web site http://armadillo-online.org/.
My purpose here is to demonstrate a successful method of capturing and removing armadillos in an effective, safe and humane manner. While the nine-banded armadillo plays a useful ecological role by consuming large quantities of insects as food, when they take up residence in your yard, garden or worse, dig burrows under your buildings, they can be very destructive and an extreme nuisance.
Armadillos are usually active at night, but do forage in the early morning and evening hours. In my yard in north Florida, I have observed a family of young armadillos (see image below) foraging on an overcast day in mid afternoon. Full grown armadillos can dig large holes in the soil and in one night of foraging can ruin large patches of lawn or garden. I often encounter problems with armadillos the night after I spend time working in my garden. They dig around (and destroy) newly-planted flowers that I watered right after planting, particularly during dry weather. Suppressing the insect populations in the lawn will help reduce armadillo damage, but this effort has its own negative side effects if certain pesticides are used.
Typical armadillo feeding hole in soil.
Armadillo reproduction is interesting and unique in that four identical young (quadruplets) from a single egg are produced in each litter (see image above). Armadillos are sexually mature at about one year of age and live reportedly for 12 to15 years. Little wonder than that they occur in high densities commonly in Florida. Armadillos roam far and wide with a home range found to be over 12 acres in Florida studies. Thus, combating armadillos around the home will be a never-ending chore. As one is removed another will likely find the open territory.
Methods of removal: Many methods have been suggested for exclusion or removal of armadillos from a yard or other area where they are causing problems. Constructing a strong exclusion fence buried in the ground a foot or so is both expensive and impractical. I have tried most of the trap methods and have found that most are ineffective, require uncommonly available or messy equipment (baits such as earthworms) or some strange behavior like getting up in the middle of the night to chase them with a net. There is an easier way if you use your head and some relatively cheap and readily available equipment. You don't need messy baits, you just exploit the behavior of the armadillo and let them catch themselves at your convenience. Here is how.
Equipment::You will need a strong metal trap. I highly recommend the Haverhart traps (see image below) that can be purchased from a garden supply catalog or garden center for about $35. I also recommend using traps of smaller size, around 7 x 7 x 24 inches (see image below, foreground) as the larger traps are not strong enough to contain a large armadillo determined to escape. I have found that the nine-banded armadillo is able to bend the metal rods in the trap door and escape from the larger traps (see below, background).
When captured, armadillos will repeatedly run as hard and as fast as they can inside the trap to butt the ends or sides of the trap in an effort to escape. They possess strong legs with large sturdy claws for digging (see image below) that provide them excellent traction, strength and leverage to attempt escape.
The other tool you need, portable garden or yard fencing, may be purchased at a hardware store or garden center for less than $15.00. I use the type (shown below) which comes in 24-inch sections. They are about 12 inches in height, including the stakes at the bottom that enable the sections to be placed solidly in the soil. You need at least four sections of fence to use with one trap (see image below).
Place the fencing in front of a burrow in parallel to funnel the armadillo into the trap.
Setting the trap: The trap along with the fence sections work together to form a funnel. Armadillos have fantastic noses but apparently poor eyesight. They can be easily "channeled" toward and into a trap. The best location for trap placement is near the entrance of a burrow (see image above). However, this method works sometimes in the open if you set up a large funnel type area with the yard fence as described next (see image below).
First place the fence sections around the burrow entrance such that the emerging armadillo will be forced to move in the direction of the channel formed by the fence. The fence sections should be placed about 12 inches apart in parallel to form the channel or corridor (see image below).
I recommend placing the fencing to form the channel around the burrow without the trap for a few nights before adding the Haverhart trap to allow the armadillo to get accustomed to it, although this may not always be necessary and could be counter productive. Armadillo burrows often have multiple entrances and there may be more than one burrow in your yard. Therefore, an armadillo may not return to the same burrow or use the same entry hole every day.
Make sure that the fence sections are placed such that they overlap on the outside and not inside the formed channel. That is the fence should form sides that are smoothly overlapping in the direction from the burrow toward the trap (see image above). After a day or two with the fence in place, set the trap door and place the trap at the far end of the fence channel to make the funnel. Make sure that the fence sections adjoining the trap overlap the trap on the outside edges next to the door. Also, if the soil is uneven, it may be helpful to place a board, stone or soil under the trap so that the trap entrance is level such that the armadillo will have no problem entering. Baits (earthworms, fresh fruit) are not necessary using this trap method, but can be placed inside the trap as an added attraction. Set the trap before dusk and check it again in the morning.
A modification of the two-sided funnel method placed near a burrow, is to use a wall, fence or other existing lengthy obstacle in the yard that will serve the same purpose in directing the movement of the roaming armadillos. This has the added advantage of covering more space and increasing the likelihood that an armadillo present will reach the trap. Place the trap tightly against the obstacle. The addition of some fencing as described above on the opposite side of the trap from the obstacle will also help increase capture rate.
The range of the nine-banded armadillo in the United States. (Wikipedia article)