The MSU Extension Service office has been receiving lots of calls concerning armadillos digging up yards and gardens. People want to know how to get rid of them. Well, there is no simple answer to that question. To understand how to control armadillos begins with knowing about them.

The armadillo is the only mammal with a shell. Armadillo are about the size of an opossum and weigh from 8 to 15 pounds. This is why they are sometimes referred to as "possums on the half-shell", especially to those who dine on them. They have a protective armor of "bony" material on their head, body, and tail. This bony armor has nine movable rings between the shoulder and hip shield. Hence the name of our local "nine-banded armadillo." The long tapering tail is also encased in 12 bony rings. Armadillo tracks usually appear to be three-toed and show sharp claw marks.

Armadillo young are born in a nest with in the burrow during April after a 4 month gestation period. The female produces only one litter of quadruplets of the same sex. The young are identical since they develop from a single egg.

Although they have very poor eyesight, their sense of smell is very good. They are very agile and can run well when in danger. They are also good swimmers.

Armadillos are most active from twilight through the early morning hours during the spring and summer months. During the winter they may be active only during the daytime. An armadillo usually digs a burrow 7 or 8 inches in diameter and up to 20 feet in length for shelter and raising young. Burrows are located around stumps, in woodlands, and brush piles or in other out of the way locations. Sometimes they locate under houses. They often have several dens in an area. Since they are burrowing animals they prefer habitats with sandy loam soils that are loose and well drained. This is the main reason that you do not often see them in the Delta.

More than 90% of the armadillo's diet is made up of insects and their larvae. The main insect larvae are those white grubs you find when you dig in your yard. Armadillos will also feed on earthworms, ants, spiders, and other invertebrates. It is estimated that an armadillo eats up to 200 lbs of bugs a year. Sometimes they will eat some decaying fruit and vegetation matter, such as berries and tender roots.

Most armadillo damage occurs as a result of their rooting holes in search of food and their burrowing behavior. Problems can often occur in home lawns, golf courses, vegetable gardens, and flower beds. Signs of armadillo activity are shallow holes, 1 to 3 inches wide.

Currently there are no repellents registered for armadillo control. There are materials marketed as repellants but I do not know how effective they are. Products that contain red pepper, black pepper, or napthalene can act as a temporary determent in small areas. There are also no fumigants registered, however there are some that might be effective in removing armadillos from their burrow. One suggestion I have heard is to pour a bottle of ammonia down the hole and get out of the way. Mothballs tossed into the hole might also drive them out.

Since armadillo dig in the lawn and other areas looking for soil-inhabiting insects, controlling the insects will make your yard a less desirable buffet. There are several materials available that can be applied as a liquid spray or as a granule. Look on the label of the insecticide container for the active ingredient carbaryl, imidacloprid, halofenozide, or trichorfon. Carefully read and follow label directions for application. Not only will you discourage armadillo, you will also have a better lawn.

Armadillos can be captured in a live trap or box trap. Since they can not see well, the trap can be enhanced by using "wings" of boards about 6 feet long to funnel the target animal into the trap. Baiting with overripe or spoiled fruit will increase the trap's effectiveness. The best location to set a trap is along pathways to their burrows and along fences where the animal may travel.

For people who live in the country, shooting is an option. Just be extremely careful where you are aiming. A down side to shooting is that you will have to stay up at night waiting on the culprit. Also, gunshots at night will be upsetting to you neighbors.

Armadillos are very interesting animals and are generally not a cause of concern. However, when problems arise, these suggestions can provide a means of reducing damage. If you want learn more about armadillos, check out the website http://www.dilloscape.com. The site claims it will tell you "almost everything you've ever wanted to know about armadillos."