Can anything stop the armadillo from taking over Kansas City?
In Texas, the armadillo is ubiquitous. What you might not know: The small mammals covered in a leathery shell are a relative newcomer to the Lone Star State. Armadillos are native to South America and were unknown outside the Rio Grande Valley in the southern tip of Texas when the state joined the union in 1845. By the end of the 19th century, these armored opossums had conquered the state and become something of a mascot.
Armadillos are still pressing northward, and they’ve now established themselves in central and southern Missouri. They could be coming for Kansas City next. Here are three things to know about armadillos in Kansas City.
Armadillos are a problem.
The spread of armadillos isn’t an issue solely because they’re weird little critters and tend to end up as roadkill.
Armadillos have sharp claws that they use to dig up grubs and worms, says Todd Meese, a biologist who tracks wildlife damage for the state of Missouri.
“They root like hogs,” he says. “They root, and they can destroy a yard or a crop field overnight.”
If a family of armadillos decides to forage for food outside your house, they could ruin your perfectly manicured yard while you slumber.
Armadillos are also the only other mammal that will carry the bacteria that causes leprosy, which has caused some concern. However, you’re not in any danger so long as you don’t touch or eat an armadillo.
There’s a silver lining to our frigid winter.
Armadillos come from South America and have no adaptations to the freezing weather. They don’t hibernate and can’t effectively feed on grubs and worms when the ground is frozen.
Meese says that the cold, snowy winter in Kansas City seems to have “beaten them back” for the time being.
However, he says, “they seem to be encroaching more and more.” Until about five years ago, he’d never gotten a call in Jackson County. Recently, he was shocked when he found one in Independence, at the intersection of Missouri 291 and Gudgell Road.
“That’s getting up there,” he says. “If they can survive, they’re going to press onward.”
The spread of armadillos will likely stop at the Missouri River.
When it comes to the armadillo invasion, the Northland is in luck. Meese and other experts expect that the Missouri River will be the end of their spread for the foreseeable future.
That isn’t because they can’t swim, though.
“They can swim like little submarines, and they can cross bodies of water,” Meese says. “But when you get across the Missouri River, everything’s different — the ground temperature, the freezing point, the frost line — and they won’t be able to survive. At least, we’re hoping that could be a stopping point.”