The armadillo is a relative newcomer to Colorado. There are only two or three reports of the animals to date, but we should probably expect to see them in increasing numbers.
The armadillo is an unmistakable mammal, with its unique, bony bands of "shell," leathery skin and pig-like snout. Total length may be 32 inches, and adults weigh six to nine pounds.
They are well protected against most predators. Their first defense is to run (and they are remarkably fast for tanks!), then they jump into the air and startle the predator. Finally they roll into an armored ball, impenetrable to all but the most persistent coyote and, of course, vehicular traffic.
Be alert for armadillos in eastern Colorado, and report them or their remains to Colorado Parks and Wildlife personnel. Armadillos are not only interesting, but their increasing range may also be a telltale sign of a warming climate.
Range: These are very widespread subtropical animals, ranging from northern Argentina into the southern United States. In recent years they have moved into the central Great Plains.
Habitat: Their habitat is woodlands in river valleys where they dig deep burrows in banks and under vegetation. They can be a nuisance when they burrow in ditch banks, and root up melon patches and vegetable fields.
Diet: They have simple, peg-like teeth and eat insects, worms, slugs, fruits, eggs and some carrion.
Reproduction: Armadillos do not hibernate, but spend cold, stormy weather deep under ground. They breed in late summer, but development of the young does not begin until early winter. After a gestation period of 120 days, a litter of identical quadruplets (four young from a single fertilized egg) is born. The fist-sized newborns are ready to walk their first day.
By David M. Armstrong
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Environmental Studies Program, University Museum of Natural History
University of Colorado-Bouldermausmann@aol.com