Get rid of armadillos with a stink

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 6, 2009

Next Saturday, Oct. 12 Jefferson College will be hosting the Copper Magnolia Festival. There will be live music, activities for the kids, nature trails and much more.

The Adams County Master Gardeners will have a plant sale with numerous varieties of plants for your home and garden. Starting at 10 a.m. they will have seminars by local Master Gardeners on multiple topics from composting to making self watering containers. I strongly recommend you attend this event, it is family focused and will provide something for everyone.

Throughout the year we have different things that invade our lawn and gardens. Whether it be small insects or spreading diseases it is always frustrating to deal with. However when varmints like armadillos come into the picture the destruction is much more evident, and controlling them is often more difficult as well.

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Q: Why do armadillos tear up my yard?

A: We have received this question several times over the last week. They are usually not considered serious pests until they begin searching for food in our home lawns and gardens. The armadillos’ diet ranges from ants to spiders but they also eat larvae, frogs and other invertebrates. They have a powerful set of claws and sense of smells which makes them capable of identifying a food source and then destroy a medium-size lawn in a short time frame in search for these foods sources. In fact, the part of the brain responsible for smell (olfactory bulbs) is about a third the size of their cerebrum, which is used for thinking, learning and memory.

There are over 20 species of armadillos, but the one common to our area is the nine-banded armadillo. It can weigh up to 17 pounds and has a very strong sense of smell. Therefore anything with a strong, noxious odor can help evict an armadillo from an area.

Another unique fact about armadillos is they have only one litter a year. It is always four young and always the same sex; this is because all their offspring come from the same female egg.

Q: How do I eliminate armadillos?

A: You basically have three options to eliminate armadillos. The first is exclusion. There are several ways to do this; the most expensive is thorough; proper fencing.

To eliminate armadillos and other rodents a solid fence should go at least one foot below the ground to eliminate them from burrowing holes underneath. There are no registered repellents or toxicants in Mississippi but due to their strong sense of smell people have had success using mothballs or ammonia to deter them.

The next option, and most practical, is trapping. Box traps — baited with earthworm placed along fence lines or structures — where they travel work well. However, then you must find a way to dispose of the varmint once trapped.

The final method of control is shooting. This may work well for those of us living in the rural parts of the county, but I cannot recommend this in the city limits neither from a safety or legal standpoint.

Unfortunately there is no magic solution in controlling armadillos. They can become a major headache but usually the damage done does not cause major plant loss or economic damage. If you cannot control them with one of the three ways listed above, be patient they are not territorial animals and usually do not stay in the same areas long.

David Carter is the director of the Adams County Extension Service. He can be reached at 601-445-8201.