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Armadillos burrow north

By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia

From the sight of the freshly-dug burrows in her lawn, Betty Dowdy knew she had a critter problem. But living in Georgia's Piedmont, she'd never have guessed the culprit was an armadillo.

"I started noticing holes in my yard and my little dog is not a digger," said Dowdy who lives in Jackson, Ga. "When I took my dog out for his morning walk, we came eye-to-eye with an armadillo."

Steadily traveling north

Armadillos north of the gnat line?

"They used to be primarily a south Georgia animal," said Melissa Cummings, a spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources-Wildlife Resources Division.

Armadillos now have been reported as far north as Gainesville, Ga., Cummings said.

At first, Dowdy didn't take action against the armadillo. She didn't know what to do. Then the evil excavator took up residence under her porch

"My grandkids could hear him scratching under my home's foundation," she said. "That's when I called for help."

Attract and trap

A DNR agent told her she needed sardines, rotten fruit and a trap to catch him. Her local animal control office loaned her a trap and offered to haul it off once she caught him.

Homeowners aren't breaking any state laws by disposing of armadillos that damage their landscapes. They aren't a protected species, Cummings said. But she recommends checking with your local law enforcement officers.

"Make sure you aren't breaking any city or county ordinances first," she said.

But Dowdy's trap didn't work.

The armadillo continued to burrow through her yard, and steered clear of the baited trap.

South Georgians are accustomed to fighting armadillos in their yards. In Calhoun County, 30 miles west of Albany, Ga., Paul Wigley, the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension county coordinator, says they're a "genuine nuisance" in his area.

Holes a safety hazard

Aside from lawn damage, Wigley says, armadillos can cause physical damage, too.

"The holes they dig are safety hazards, especially to the young and the elderly," he said. "An older citizen can easily fall if they twist their ankle in a hole and don't catch their balance."

Wigley has trapped 17 armadillos this year in the permanent trap on his one-acre lawn. Two 16-foot pieces of plywood in a v-shape at the entrance help guide them into the trap. He recommends covering the trap with burlap.

"This makes it blend with the environment," he said. "He'll think he's moving into another armadillo's nest."

Some homeowners take drastic measures to remove or deter armadillos from entering landscapes, Wrigley said.

Electric fences with wires set 3 inches and 6 inches above the ground will stop armadillos.

"But then an electric fence doesn't know the difference between an armadillo and you, or your cat or dog," he said.

Bye-bye critter problem

Eight days into her armadillo showdown, Dowdy and her dog again came face-to-face with the unwanted guest. But this day, Dowdy was armed with frustration, hostility and a neighbor with a weapon.

"He brought over his shotgun," she said. "I don't have an armadillo problem any more."

Dowdy's neighbor gave the armadillo to a friend who dressed and ate the animal.

"Some people do eat them," Wigley. "I've eaten it before, but I won't eat it again. It's greasy like opossum. That's why they're called 'possum on a half-shell."

(Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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