Roving Bands of “Fairly Destructive” Armadillos May March on DC Thanks to Climate Change, Reports Washington Post

The Daily Climate reported back in June:

The armadillo is moving north into areas never expected by biologists, who are also seeing climate-related migration of mice and other mammals in the Great Lakes region.

range-mapThat story noted “there’s no question armadillos – and other small mammals – are on the move in the United States, expanding into terrain biologists thought highly unlikely just a few years ago.”  And some of the migration “is clearly triggered by a changing climate. Armadillos have settled into southern Illinois, Indiana, Kansas and Missouri – all areas that were “totally unexpected,” according to Colleen McDonough, a biology professor at Georgia’s Valdosta State University.

I confess I didn’t make much of the story at the time.  But today the Washington Post turned the story into:

Roving armadillos could be heading for the Washington area, biologists say

… Climate change is the culprit…. biologists’ claim[] that the armadillo’s northward expansion can be attributed to a warming atmosphere….

And the WashPost directs us to the blog at The Museum of Life and Science in North Carolina just so we’ll know armadillos aren’t harmless, even if they are cute (and these don’t roll into a ball):

They are mainly insectivorous and can be fairly destructive to areas in their search to dig up delicious crawly treats.  They also dwell in burrows that they dig and which do a great service to other species because when they vacate their burrows, these are quickly utilized by skunks, rattlesnakes, burrowing owls and numerous other species.

Contrary to popular belief, the Nine-Banded Armadillo cannot roll itself into a ball to protect itself.  It can run away quickly when startled, jump a few feet into the air and, if all else fails-will quickly dig a shallow trench to wedge itself in.  Their armor does provide a great amount of protection, as most predators cannot get through the shell and quickly grow discouraged and give up.

"Everyone Loves Quadruplets!"

And what else is very interesting about the armadillo is their reproductive strategy.  The female will give birth to 4 young at a time and they are all identical to each other.  The quadruplets come from one fertilized egg which splits into 4 separate embryos which then develop alongside each other and result in a litter of 4 which will nurse from their mother for approximately 3 months and stay with her for between 6 months to a year.  They can breed at one year old, and every year thereafter for the rest of their 12-15 year lifespan.  One female can give birth to over 50 young, which is why their population is growing so quickly.

The WashPost puts it:

Scientists don’t know what the range expansion means, though it’s not out of the question to imagine the insect-eaters could wreak havoc on backyards in the DMV….

“Basically all we can do is … sit back and measure the change as it happens,” the University of Michigan’s Philip Myers told the Daily Climate, “whether we like it or not.”

Not among the top 10 threats to DC from climate change, but, hey, one takes what one can get from the Washington Post.

14 Responses to Roving Bands of “Fairly Destructive” Armadillos May March on DC Thanks to Climate Change, Reports Washington Post

  1. Peter Mizla says:

    If the map is correct- these creatures will extend as far as southern Connecticut, into Rhode Island and Cape Cod.

    Flora and Fauna will continue to shift north to escape the increasingly inhospitable climate further south. Are people next?

  2. Peter Mizla says:

    related- in a people way

    The steady flow of people moving to the Sun Belt that fueled its head-spinning boom for decades now is sputtering — a blow to the region but a boost for Northern states.

  3. BA says:

    So, a giant version of these creatures, the Glyptodon, occupied North America during the Pleistocene. When humans arrived on the scene they are believed to have hunted them to extinction. Now the Glyptodon’s small, unassuming cousin thus far relegated to the south is retaking old territory. Hum…someday when you look outside and find an armadillo the size of a Volkswagen up rooting your Begonias you will know it is pretty much game over for your species.

  4. Merrelyn Emery says:

    It’s already happening Peter. People have been transferring from Tuvalu to NZ for years now and perhaps the largest movement at the moment is the huge exodus from the drought affected areas of the Horn of Africa – millions of them, ME

  5. Rob Jones says:

    Its funny how we still get deniers stating rubbish like the world is not warming or the world is cooling, when there is so much contrary evidence. People KNOW whats going on. Here in Australia I can now purchase some very cheep real estate. It is all coastal and low lying and used to be some of our most expensive. People know and are very unwilling to put their money where their mouth is.
    The world will learn to live with new invasive species but what troubles me most is that on the back of peak oil and climate induced crop failure through rain and drought we will have a climate induced crop pest outbreak of formerly tropical insect and fungal pests. I don’t think its quite a perfect storm but a storm it will be.

  6. squidboy6 says:

    Armadillos are carriers of leprosy, I had been taught this back in college parasitology but it’s been verified recently with molecular biological techniques.

    This disease is found mostly in poor Southerners who kill and eat armadillos, gutting the animals and getting the bacteria into their system through small cuts on their hands. The disease takes years to become obvious and by then it’s too late, but it can be treated easily if it is caught early enough.

    The migration will not mean that people will recognize global warming and do something about it since the poor, people poor enough to butcher armadillos, aren’t recognized by our society, and these folks really don’t have any rights.

    I’ve seen this same phenomenon, migration northward, in marine organisms off Southern California for several years when fish seen late in the Summer, normally, near Santa Barbara appeared throughout the year.

    I predict a catastrophe, greater than the one happening now, will occur before climate change becomes obvious to the people but for the rest be warned – armadillos can cause traffic accidents. They get run over all the time in the Deep South and their bodies litter the roadways.

  7. Robert In New Orleans says:

    If you think the armadillos are bad, wait for the Argentinian Fire Ants, Formosan Termites, Hungry Nutria, Floridian Pythons and Mexican Killer Bees.

  8. A Jameton says:

    I have seen dead armadillos on a couple of occasions alongside Route 80 in Iowa during the last 5 years, so they probably have been moving further north than the map indicates, at least, in the plains region.

  9. Joan Savage says:

    The armadillos don’t tolerate dry conditions or high temperatures, as well as being cold-intolerant. Although the armadillos are spreading into a warmer north with plenty of insect food, the armadillos may also be pushed out of their southern range, also due to climate change.

  10. Bruce Turton says:

    In northern Canada, north of the 60th parallel, magpies are now abundant. People there had never seen these birds 15 years ago. Robins go further north, and there is no word in Inuktitut (language of the Inuit) for “robin”.

  11. Climate scientist and IPCC lead author Andrew Weaver recently quipped that it might not be long before KeystoneXL is converted to a water pipeline.

    And when the power went out in SoCal desert this summer the locals just couldn’t believe how hot and unbearable their home towns were without air conditioning. Several were quoted as saying it was real misery.

    The SW USA is heading for a hurt of trouble and most have no clue that the only solutions that will be available when they finally “get it” will be a whack of “abandonment wedges”.

  12. A couple years ago I saw a pelican(!) fly by when I was on one of the larger BC ferries. Lots of people were on deck but I seemed to be the only person who was shocked to see this odd stranger. Seems birders are noting an increase in these “used to be southern” birds every year.

    I think most people wouldn’t notice range expansion from climate change if it literally flew over their heads. They are even confused about whether it is getting warmer in Texas where the state is obliterating “we are burning up” records.

  13. Chris Winter says:

    From the WashPost: “Scientists don’t know what the range expansion means, though it’s not out of the question to imagine the insect-eaters could wreak havoc on backyards in the DMV…”

    That would be the Delmarva Peninsula?

  14. Tom Lenz says:

    The armadillos have been here in NW Arkansas for at least 25 years now, where before they were thought of as a Texas scrub varmint. Last summer they burrowed under the fence and completely destroyed two deep-bed vegetable gardens including the beds themselves which are like fluffy potting soils dug into the surrounding rock and clay. But the rock and clay doesn’t deter then either. They can easily excavate into just about anything but solid stone. So get ready gardeners, here comes yet another assault on your all your plans. As if the weather alone isn’t enough. And I can’t prove it but I’m sure I saw several species of moth this summer which I’ve never seen before. Then there’s the matter of the mass die-off of our sycamore trees rapidly taking place before our eyes. Then apart from the sycamores which were already dying there are all the trees killed this summer by the heat and drought. Then will come the great firestorms as a once green and well watered landscape dessicates and burns before turning to desert. The armadillo is a desert dweller right?