- Associated Press - Friday, March 11, 2016

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) - Scientists agree that armadillos are moving northward in the U.S., and one Southern Illinois University professor has taken notice.

Associate zoology professor F. Agustin Jimenez has started studying the armadillo, commonly associated with Texas, Florida and other warm-weather states, but it has recently been sighted as far north in Illinois as the Mount Vernon area. His primary study will focus on the parasites carried by the migrating mammal in the region, and he hopes other studies tracking the animal’s movements will be launched later this year.

“We are looking at the first wave that is going that direction (northeast),” he said. “We want to see if that is a trend, or to see if they are just going to go northward.”

The southern hemisphere is home to 23 species of armadillo, but only the nine-banded armadillo is moving northward. Warmer and shorter winters could facilitate the species’ survival in the northern hemisphere, Jimenez told the Southern Illinoisan (https://bit.ly/223MqOF ).

“They have expanded quite rapidly. At the end of the 19th century they were making it into Texas. By the middle of the 20th century they were into Florida, Georgia, all of the Gulf Coast States were populated by armadillos.”

Scientists initially believe the armadillos would die when the winter grew colder, but now they’re being spotted in early spring.

“As more observations emerge, this time of the year is when people start seeing them,” Jimenez said. “They must spend their time here. They must go underground. I don’t know how deep they go. Either they find a mother lode of beetles or they hibernate.”

Additionally, populations of armadillos are growing rapidly, and scientists believe it’s because they don’t have any natural predators in the areas where they’re moving.


Information from: Southern Illinoisan, https://www.southernillinoisan.com

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