Armadillos, those icons of Texas roadways, have extended their range into the Midwest and Southeast. What is good news for these armored varmints is bad news for gardeners, as armadillos dig in search of the worms and grubs they eat, leaving shallow holes in the yard or uprooted flowers and vegetables in their wake. They are single-minded in this quest for food, to the point of ignoring nearby humans. Keeping them out of your yard will require concerted effort and probably a combination of methods.
Things You'll Need
- Soil insecticide
- Weed trimmer
- Garden shears
- Chicken wire, enough to cover an affected area
- Wire cutters
- Utility gloves
- Stones or 4-inch-long wire staples
- Measuring tape
- Electric fence wire
- Short wooden posts
- Plastic electric fence insulators, one per post
- Electric fence battery charger or solar charger
- Fencing, at least 2 feet high
- Box trap
- Over-ripe fruit
- Two 1-by-6-inch boards, 6 feet long
- Bricks, stones or short stakes
Examine your lawn damage to ensure that armadillos are the culprits. A distinctive sign of armadillos' rooting in your yard is a series of shallow holes, between 1 and 3 inches deep and 3 to 5 inches wide.
Apply insecticide to your lawn, following the manufacturer's instructions to the letter. Reducing the population of grubs and other invertebrates living in your turf grass will reduce the armadillos' food source, thus discouraging them from foraging in your yard.
Trim brush and thick undergrowth from around your yard with a weed cutter for herbaceous plants and shears for tough or woody ones. This reduces the armadillos' preferred habitat, leaving them little cover from which to venture into your yard proper.
Cut a length of chicken wire large enough to cover flower beds, new vegetable gardens, driveway borders and other areas where armadillos are digging. If necessary, connect two pieces of wire by twisting the cut ends of one piece over the loops of a second piece. Wear gloves when working with wire to protect your hands.
Place the chicken wire flat on the ground on the affected area; the small hole size will keep armadillos from digging and encourage them to find an easier place to forage.
Weight the edges of the chicken wire with stones, or insert wire staples at intervals around the edges to hold it in place.
Measure the area you need to protect from armadillos, and cut a length of electric fence wire that is 1 foot longer than the measurement.
Place short stakes at intervals of 4 to 5 feet around the perimeter of the area, and place a plastic insulator on each stake, 3 or 4 inches from the ground.
String the electric fence wire through the insulators around the entire perimeter, and install your charger, following the manufacturers' directions.
Activate the electric fence each night at dusk; armadillos are primarily nocturnal.
Tips & Warnings
- Alabama Wildlife Extension Specialist Jim Armstrong recommends a low electric fence, but other types of fences may repel armadillos as well, as long as they are tilted outward at about a 40-degree angle. Dig a slanted trench to hold your fence at the necessary angle. Live trapping can remove armadillos from your yard; if you place the traps around the edge of your property or garden, where armadillos typically travel, you can keep them out in the first place. Traps are commercially available, or you can make your own; it should be 10-by-12 inches by 32 inches. Bait the trap with over-ripe fruit. These traps will be more effective if you direct the armadillos to the entrance with "wings" made of 1-by-6-inch boards stood upright, with one end against the front corners of the trap, and the others spread more widely apart, creating a "V" shape that points toward the door of the trap. You can prop the wood up with bricks or stones on the back side, or drive short stakes into the ground behind them.
- While several types of chemical armadillo repellents are on the market, extension agents and wildlife biologists generally do not recommend them. If you have questions about a specific product, especially newly released ones, check with your local extension agent to find out whether it is safe and effective in your area.
- Be aware that many of these measures can have a larger, unintended effect. Pesticides can reduce the armadillo population by reducing their food source, but it can also harm beneficial creatures that help your lawn and garden, such as earthworms and ladybugs. Similarly, eliminating the brushy cover that armadillos prefer can also eliminate cover for some species of bird, repelling them as well as the varmints. And electric fences can post a tripping or shock hazard to domestic pets and to people, especially children. Before using any type of live trapping method, check the laws in your state or city. In Florida, for instance, "it is illegal to transport and release armadillos elsewhere," warns Charlotte County Extension Agent Ralph E. Mitchell. If removal of armadillos from your property is not an option, consult an exterminator who is licensed in wildlife removal.
- Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management: Armadillos: Donald W. Hawthorne, USDA-APHIS
- U. of Missouri Extension; Armadillos in Missouri: Techniques to Prevent and Control Damage; Robert A. Pierce II
- U. of Florida Extension, Charlotte County: Armadillos in Your Yard? Ralph E. Mitchell
- Alabama Cooperative Extension System; Controlling Armadillo Damage In Alabama; Jim Armstrong; May, 1997
- Photo Credit Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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