Armadillos Are Invading the Carolinas, and Scientists Aren't Sure Why
Armadillos, the armored mammals most often associated with Texas, are moving northward into North and South Carolina.
Over the past 15 years, the species that originated in South America has been expanding its range. Armadillos have been spotted as far north as Missouri, Iowa, and even Nebraska. But they've really taken a liking to the Carolinas, where homeowners in some areas describe them as a "nuisance," thanks in large part to their penchant for digging.
"Lately, it seems like they've just taken off," Jay Butfiloski, a wildlife biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, told The State.
Butfiloski said that armadillos have spread from the sandy soil of the lower Savannah River area into places he didn't expect, like the Piedmont and mountains, which have thick clay soil that's harder for them to dig.
"You found them a lot in the sandier-soil type of counties, so you thought maybe that's a byproduct of the soil types that are common; it's easy digging," he told The State. "But going up into the Upstate, there's nothing easy about digging in that red clay. It doesn't seem to have stopped them."
Just over the border in the Tar Heel state, in the tiny mountain town of Sapphire "besieged" by the creatures, a man named Jason Bullard has pivoted from hunting feral pigs to dispatching destructive armadillos.
"It's like hunting aliens," Bullard told The Guardian. "We know nothing about them. We can't seem to kill them easily. They show up unexpectedly. And their numbers have just exploded."
Scientists aren't sure why armadillos are expanding their habitat northward. Warmer temperatures from the earth's changing climate could be a factor, or it could be simply that they saw an opportunity and went for it. Can you blame them?
"Climate change could be part of it, but I don't think it's the main driver," Patrick McMillan, a former Clemson University professor, told The State. "The main driver may be more that these interstate highways and railroads and all the corridors are good armadillo habitat. They've just utilized those to drive their range expansion."
Fortunately, armadillos aren't inherently dangerous, and they're far less destructive than feral pigs.
"Armadillos—you are going to have to learn to live with them,'' McMillan concluded.