- Associated Press - Monday, May 22, 2017

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Residents in the Lawrence area are reporting more armadillo sightings, an occurrence that wildlife officials say could be due to the state’s recent mild winters.

Marty Birrell, the nature education supervisor for the Prairie Park Nature Center, told the Lawrence Journal-World (http://bit.ly/2qbC3qL ) that the center is seeing two to three reports of armadillos each week in and around Lawrence.

The armor-plated mammal has a history of hitchhiking northbound trucks from the country’s southeast region, where the animal is typically found. But Birrell said milder winters in recent years may mean more of those armadillos survive and potentially breed in Lawrence.

“In Douglas County, I know that we’ve released enough armadillos that have been collected that there’s undoubtedly a population of them that reproduce,” she said. “But I suspect that there’s a natural but small reproducing population.”

Birrell said she hasn’t received any reports of baby armadillos in Lawrence, but that if people encounter them they should inform the center. She said she has seen young armadillos in a bordering county.

The National Wildlife Federation said the armadillo’s range has been expanding northward for more than a century.

“We’re seeing climate change affecting their range and their survivability,” Birrell said. “The more of them that end up surviving their artificial transport into our state, the more likely we are to have a reproductive population in the future, assuming that these guys can find each other.”

Birrell warned that the wild animals should be left alone and shouldn’t be touched, noting that they sometimes carry bacteria such as leprosy.

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com

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