Photo by Michelle Baldasarre. Juvenile nine-banded armadillos in Lithia.

By Ali Dunstan

Did you know that there are over 700 different kinds of animals living in Florida? Over the years, I have found that people have questions about the animals that share our space and that most fear is generated from the unknown.

This column will be a fun and informative place to learn more about these interesting and amazing creatures living among us. I will share my knowledge and experiences every month about the diverse array of species that we get to encounter every day.

One of the most frequent questions asked is, “What are these holes appearing in my perfectly landscaped lawn and what is causing them?” The answer to that can be many things but the most probable deduction is that you are encountering your new backyard friend, the nine-banded armadillo.

The native armadillo is a nomadic mammal that can be found all over the Southwestern United States, including all of Florida. It has been naturalized to our area since the 1920s and will often be seen at dusk and dawn foraging for insects and plants.

Armadillos live in burrows and will dig intricate systems with multiple entrances and exits. These burrows not only serve as a home to these animals, but also a place to escape predators and birth their young.

Fun fact, almost every armadillo gives birth to identical quadruplets. Armadillos are extremely interesting creatures and mean us no harm.

Armadillos are most active at night, have extremely poor eyesight and when startled, leap straight up into the air, making them one of the most common animals to be hit by a car. While curious by nature they are not aggressive or harmful to our safety. Like most wildlife, their instinct is to flee from potentially dangerous situations.

Helpful Tips: Armadillos love to eat bugs and follow their nose. The more fertile your lawn, the more armadillos that you will attract but only for a short period as they move on quickly.

If you would like to make the armadillo a less frequent visitor, simply water your lawns in the morning, make use of fencing around gardens, reinforce areas around the foundation of your home and keep fallen fruit or pet food to a minimum and off the ground. Outdoor lighting can also deter these nocturnal creatures. Please remember that mothballs and products sold at stores are toxic to the environment and are not wildlife deterrents.

To ask a wildlife question, email fishhawktnr4@gmail.com.

Ali Dunstan is currently the director of FishHawk TNR, Inc. She has been working with animals for over 20 years and is a biologist specializing in animal behavior, marine and wildlife rescue, rehabilitation, education and conservation.