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Why More Armadillos are Showing Up in Missouri

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Armadillos have become a common sight here in Missouri, but the critters haven't always been around in the Show-Me State.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Armadillos have become a common sight here in Missouri, but the critters haven't always been around in the Show-Me State.

Wildlife expert with the Missouri Department of Conservation Francis Skalicky doesn't believe armadillos have many fans, especially among gardeners.

"They're looking for grubs and insects and so they do a lot of digging," he said, "And that digging can do a lot of damage."

He said ground that's tilled or dug up makes it easier to find their grubby dinner.

And that could be why they've migrated to the Show-Me State.

"There is more tilled ground now then perhaps there was in pre-settlement Missouri through things like gardens, crop fields," he said.

But unfortunately most of the time we spot armadillos here in the Ozarks we find them as roadkill.

Anyone who drives in the summertime knows we have armadillos," Skalicky said.

He believes a defense mechanism used in the wild is to blame.

"Their first reaction is they jump straight in the air and that startles the predator," he said, "But when that predator is an oncoming vehicle jumping in the air does no good."

The modern vehicle might be thinning out the population, but they're still thriving and moving further north.

"Their range is expanding, yes," he said.

And MSU and the DOC are trying to find out why this animal is now all over the Midwest.

"They appeared in Missouri probably around the 1970's," he said, "The research has kind of been ongoing, like what's going on here, you know, why are they expanding. These are animals more of the Southwest."

The theories are many.

"Some people say because of climate change, too," he said.

But Skalicky said biologists haven't agreed on one reason, yet.

But all they do think these animals are sticking around.

You can kill armadillos if they're harming your land or you can trap them and re-locate.

They aren't vicious animals.

Some people believe there is a threat of them causing leprosy, but Skalicky said that's only a risk if you eat them.

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