7 Reasons Why Armadillos Are In Your Yard (And What To Do)

Close Up Shot Of Armadillo Feeding

Armadillos are strange-looking animals that inhabit the central and southern United States. While these trundling mammals are quite harmless, they can sometimes find their way into our yards and cause unwanted damage to our lawns.

Armadillos are in your yard because they are searching for insects or food scraps. They are attracted to a freshly watered and fertilized lawns as well as loose soil for digging a burrow. Cleaning up spilled garbage and setting up fences and motion activated lights or sprinklers can keep them away.

Below, we’ll go over all the reasons why these armored animals are in your yard, and what you can do to keep them out. Let’s get to it!

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Why Am I Finding Armadillos In My Yard?

Unlike deer, raccoons, and coyotes, armadillos are not found everywhere. If you’re seeing armadillos in your yard, chances are you live in the central or southern United States.

Armadillos are pretty picky when it comes to their environment. It has to be wet but not too wet, and warm but not too hot, and It definitely can’t be cold!

According to a study reported in the Journal of Biogeography, armadillos must have at least 20 inches of annual rainfall and cannot live in areas where the average minimum temperature is below 17℉.

If you’re seeing armadillos in your yard, there are a few reasons they may be coming around. Some of the main reasons include:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Shelter

Let’s take a closer look at what exactly is attracting armadillos to your yard.

Armadillo Walking In Florida Circle B Bar Reserve

Armadillos Are Searching For Insects In Your Yard

Armadillos are closely related to anteaters and a large portion of their diet consists of insects. When they’re not eating bugs, they may snack on small vertebrates, frogs, snakes, and lizards.

According to the University of Georgia, up to 99% of an armadillo’s diet consists of beetle larvae, ants, and wasps. Armadillos also eat: 

  • Earthworms
  • Caterpillars 
  • Millipedes
  • Centipedes
  • Snails
  • Termites
  • Grasshoppers 
  • Spiders

If your yard happens to be a host to these insects, armadillos will sniff them out and enter your yard in search of a meal.

Armadillos are most active in the late evening, night, and early morning. You may not see them in the yard while they are foraging, but there will be evidence left behind.

You may see small holes dug in the lawn as they search for insects. According to an article from the USDA National Wildlife Research Center, these holes will be about 1-3 inches deep and 3-5 inches long.

Armadillos will also peel the bark off of trees to look for insects beneath the bark. This will only be at the very bottom of the tree as armadillos cannot climb trees.

Watering and Fertilizing Your Lawn Will Attract Armadillos To Your Yard

Contrary to what movies and TV shows depict, armadillos aren’t typically found in very arid, dry, desert climates. They prefer wooded areas and humid forests over cactus-strewn deserts.

One thing that is sure to attract armadillos to your yard is a well-watered and well-fertilized lawn. Healthy lawns are a perfect environment for earthworms and soil-dwelling insects to thrive.

A wet lawn also correlates with softer soil. Armadillos prefer soft soil for both excavating burrows and digging for food.

We’re not saying you have to watch your lawn turn brown, but avoid excess watering and excess fertilization to keep the insect and worm population down and to keep your soil from becoming too soft.

The same conditions that attract armadillos will attract other pests such as rats. Here are some reasons why rats are in your yard (and how to remove them)!

You Garbage Cans Are A Buffet For Armadillos

You’ve heard of trash pandas and dumpster-diving coyotes, but armadillos aren’t above eating scraps from the garbage either.

Most of an armadillo’s diet consists of insects and worms, but they also eat fruits, nuts, seeds, and carrion. If your garbage cans are not secured and become knocked over, the food scraps within can attract armadillos to your yard.

Not only will spilled garbage attract armadillos, but the scent of garbage will lure them in as well. According to the University of Florida, armadillos have poor vision and hearing. They make up for this by having an excellent sense of smell which they will use to sniff out open garbage cans.

Armadillos aren’t the only pest that eats garbage. This might seem odd or gross, but it’s safe for them. Here’s the real reason why raccoons eat garbage and don’t get sick.

Armadillos Love Loose Soil

Armadillos make their homes underground in burrows. They have clawed forelimbs and hind legs to help dig into the soil. They’ll use their pointed snout as well.

Loamy and sandy soils are highly preferred over silt or clay soils. The reason is that sandy and loamy soils are typically looser and easier to dig through.

If you have a yard that’s on the sandy side, you may be getting more armadillo visitors than you’d like.

Yards Located Near Forests Will Have More Armadillos

We mentioned before that armadillos don’t like living in the open, arid, dry desert. They much prefer shady, moist, humid forests.

Armadillos thrive in any of the following environments:

  • Woodland forests
  • Pine forests
  • Scrub brush
  • Grasslands
  • Savanna
  • Salt marsh

They also prefer to have a nearby water source such as a stream or river. If your yard is located next to a forest or near a grass prairie, you can expect more armadillos than those living next to a busy street or in the heart of a city.

Armadillos have adapted to living near people, but not as much as raccoons or coyotes. They typically won’t venture into cities, but often use roadways and railways to expand their territory.

That being said, armadillos are more likely to be located in forests than near a busy road.

Wild nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), or the nine-banded, long-nosed armadillo, is a medium-sized mammal, sitting up with claws exposed, in green grass, curiously looking to its right

Brambles Are A Safe Haven For Armadillos

It may come as a surprise that armadillos have plenty of predators despite their tough, armor-like skin.

Mountain lions, coyotes, black bears, alligators, bobcats, and owls will all prey on armadillos. When frightened, armadillos can move surprisingly fast and can jump straight up into the air.

Surprising, right?!

When confronted with a predator, armadillos will jump to startle the predator and then run as fast as their little legs can take them to either a burrow or heavy brambles.

Heavy brambles act as a good defense against predators that aren’t willing to risk getting poked in the mouth or eyes by a bunch of thorns. The armadillo’s thick skin helps protect them from the thorns.

Yards that have a lot of brambles such as raspberries or blackberries may be providing armadillos with a safe haven from predators. While this is great for the armadillo, it’s not so great for your yard.

Why Do Armadillos Tear Up Your Yard?

Whether you’ve witnessed these little armored mammals tearing up your yard or have only seen the aftermath, you may be wondering why they’ve made a mess of your yard.

There are two main reasons why armadillos tear up your yard:

  • Looking for insects/worms
  • Digging a burrow

The holes may be unsightly, but the good news is that armadillos rarely damage your physical houses such as the siding or roofing tiles like some other pests.

Armadillos Like To Look For Worms And Insects

The first reason why armadillos may be tearing up your yard is that they are in search of worms or insects that are burrowed in the soil.

Holes will typically be around 1-3 inches deep and 3-5 inches wide. The holes will be wider at the opening and narrow into an upside-down cone shape the deeper they go. 

While it may seem harmless to have a few holes in the yard, over time the repeated digging can cause substantial issues:

  • Lawnmowers: If there are enough holes in the yard, it can make mowing the lawn difficult.
  • Livestock: If you have cows, goats, sheep, or other livestock, the holes can pose a problem for these animals.
  • Flowerbeds: While digging for a meal, armadillos have no qualms about digging through flowerbeds.
  • Tree roots: Again, armadillos will dig for food anywhere and don’t mind tearing through young tree roots that are trying to get established.
  • Stability: Some areas are more vulnerable to digging than others. Armadillos that dig near stream banks may cause the banks to destabilize or collapse.

Overall, a single armadillo digging in the yard does not cause substantial damage. However, if the armadillo keeps coming back or there is a decent-sized population nearby, you may have more holes than your yard can handle!

Armadillos Like To Burrow And Dig Shelters

Most of the time, armadillos live inside burrows when they are resting. Some live on top of the ground in piles of grass or hay, but more often they use burrows.

If the soil in your yard is loose such as sand or loam, armadillos will find it more attractive to burrow in than compacted or heavy soils.

Armadillos don’t stop at just one burrow, though. These armored nuisances usually have several burrows that they use for different purposes. One burrow is used for nesting while another might be used as an escape burrow to avoid predators or as a food trap for insects and worms.

According to the University of Michigan, burrows are usually 3-15 feet in length and can be over 6 feet deep. 

That’s a substantial burrow!!

Now, imagine that burrow starts on the outer edge of your property but leads under your driveway, foundation, or sidewalk. 

Armadillo burrowing under foundations and sidewalks can undermine the integrity of those structures, causing cracks or weaknesses.

That being said, just because there’s an armadillo burrow on your property doesn’t mean it’s under your house. Armadillos will avoid thick tree roots as well since it is harder to dig through and around them as opposed to open, loose soil.

How To Get Rid Of Armadillos In Your Yard

If your yard is getting torn up because of armadillos, there are a few things you can do to get them out of your yard and keep them from coming back.

The most important thing about getting rid of armadillos is to get rid of any attractants that keep them coming back to your yard. This usually means eliminating food, water, and shelter.

Set Up Motion Lights And Sprinklers

Armadillos are nocturnal animals that are more active at night as opposed to daytime. This can make it difficult to shoo them away on your own.

Nocturnal animals like armadillos can be startled by a sudden blast of bright light such as a motion-activated floodlight.

HMCity’s Solar Lights Outdoor 120 LED with Lights is an excellent choice that comes with three different modes:

  • Motion-activated – only turns on when motion is detected.
  • On all night
  • On all night but turns brighter when motion is detected

When armadillos trundle through your yard looking for grubs, the sudden light will be enough to scare them back to the forest.

Another option is to use a motion-activated sprinkler. However, you have to be careful with the sprinkler as you don’t want it to run 24 hours a day. Overwatering your lawn can attract armadillos instead of repelling them.

That’s why something like the Orbit 62100 Yard Enforcer Motion-Activated Sprinkler is a great choice. It has different modes and can be set to only go off at night when armadillos are most active.

The Orbit also uses smart technology to detect the difference between something like leaves blowing in the wind and a passing armadillo. 

This way, your sprinkler isn’t going off every few minutes on a windy night…

Use A Fence To Keep Armadillos Out Of Your Yard

Fencing can be expensive and strenuous to install, but the good news about armadillos is that the fence doesn’t need to be very high.

Armadillos are not graceful climbers. According to the University of Florida, fencing only needs to be 2 feet high to keep armadillos out.

The key to keeping armadillos out with fencing is to make sure you bury the fence deep enough into the ground. This will prevent armadillos from simply burrowing beneath the fence.

It’s recommended to bury fencing at least 18 inches into the ground to keep these burrowing pests from sneaking into the yard.

If armadillos seem to be targeting a specific area, you can start with only fencing that area off as opposed to fencing your entire yard.

Avoid Overwatering The Lawn

A well-watered and well-taken care of lawn looks amazing, but it is also usually teeming with worms and insects beneath the soil.

Healthy lawns attract armadillos to the yard in search of all the wriggly meals located in the soil. Avoid overwatering the lawn and allow it to dry out from time to time to eliminate excess insects and worms.

Worms will also crawl to the surface of the soil when there is too much water, which will attract armadillos.

Eliminate Cover

When choosing a site to dig their burrows, armadillos look for cover near the entrance to their burrows. 

An article in the Journal of Mammalian Biology found that armadillos burrowed significantly more in pine forests where adequate cover was present when compared to open savannas.

You can deter armadillos from burrowing in your yard by eliminating some of the unnecessary cover in your yard:

  • Eliminate brush piles
  • Rake up leaves, fallen branches, and fallen twigs
  • Stack all wood neatly and if possible off the ground
  • Remove unnecessary materials in the yard like old boards and building material
  • Seal off entry under sheds and porches using wire mesh

When there’s no cover available in the yard, armadillos like to burrow into slopes to keep water from filling up the burrow. Make sure to keep an eye on these areas and remove any source of possible cover.

Usage Of Traps (Don’t)

Using traps and relocating armadillos is not recommended. Two main reasons why traps should not be used are:

  • Armadillos will find their way back
  • It can spread unwanted ailments to other populations of armadillos

A study reported in the Journal of Human-Wildlife Conflicts found that after just a few days, armadillos can find their way back to their original capture site.

Additionally, armadillos that are transported to locations outside of their home range may affect other armadillos and wildlife in negative ways.

If All Else Fails, Call A Professional!

We’ve given you a few home remedies that you can try to get armadillos to scoot out of your yard. However, when it comes down to it, some armadillos are just stubborn and keep coming back to dig in your yard.

If this is the case for you, you can always reach out to a professional near you using our nationwide pest control finder.

Are Armadillos Good To Have Around?

We’ve talked a lot about the bad side of having armadillos in the yard. Do these little guys have anything positive going for them?

Armadillos are amazing predators of pest insects. They can help out your garden by eating insects that would otherwise munch on your plant leaves and vegetables. 

Armadillos also eat carrion, which is an important role in the ecosystem. Though, many speculate they are simply after the bugs rather than the actual meat.

Other than being pest insect managers and a clean-up crew for carrion, armadillos don’t do much else. They don’t cause a lot of damage to the home or garden, but they certainly will tear up the yard for bugs and burrows.

Cute armadillo animal walking in the forest close up

That’s A Wrap!

If you live in an area where armadillos are a common sight, you may be wondering just what the heck they’re doing in your yard.

Now, for a quick recap.

The reason why armadillos are in your yard is probably related to one or more of the below items:

  • Searching for insects
  • Freshly watered lawn
  • Fertilized lawn
  • Spilled garbage/food scraps
  • Loose soil – better for digging and burrowing
  • Yards close to forest, brush, or woodland
  • Yards with brambles – protection from predators

Armadillos are nocturnal, but you may see them walking around your yard during the day too. The most likely reason they are in your yard has to do with food, water, and shelter.

To keep armadillos out of your yard, you can use fencing, motion-activated sprinklers, and lights. Avoid providing cover and avoid excessively watering or fertilizing your yard.

If all else fails, reach out to a professional for guidance on how to get rid of your pesky armadillo!

References

Gammons, D. J., Mengak, M. T., & Conner, L. M. (2005). Evaluation of Attractants for Live-Trapping Nine-Banded Armadillos. USDA National Wildlife Research Center – Staff Publications, 987. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/icwdm_usdanwrc/987/

Gammons, D. J., Mengak, M. T., & Conner, L. M. (2009, Spring). Translocation of nine-banded armadillos. Human-Wildlife Conflicts, 3(1), 64-71. https://www.jstor.org/stable/24875688

McDonough, C. M., & Loughry, W. J. (2010, December 13). Impacts of land management practices on a population of nine-banded armadillos in northern Florida. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 33(4), 1198-1209.

Platt, S.G., Rainwater, T.R. & Brewer, S.W. Aspects of the burrowing ecology of nine-banded armadillos in northern Belize. Mamm Biol 69, 217–224 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1078/1616-5047-00138

Taulman, J. F., & Robbins, L. W. (2014, April 01). Range expansion and distributional limits of the nine-banded armadillo in the United States: an update of Taulman & Robbins (1996). Journal of Biogeography, 41(8), 1626-1630. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jbi.12319

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