Armadillos are a common pest in the Southern United States and other regions with warm and temperate climates. It’s well known that armadillos can cause a great deal of property damage due to the fact that they burrow and dig for worms. But are armadillos dangerous to people?
In this article, I’d like to share my experience with handling armadillos so that I can answer that question properly. I’ll explain when armadillos are dangerous, the specific dangers they pose, and how to handle an armadillo safely.
- Are Armadillos Dangerous?
- Types Of Property Damage From Armadillos
- What To Do If You Encounter An Armadillo
- In Summary: Are Armadillos Dangerous To People?
Are Armadillos Dangerous?
The short answer is both yes and no. Generally, armadillos are not very dangerous, and they don’t pose much of a risk to humans. In most cases, when faced with a predator, armadillos simply freeze up and remain motionless, relying on their armored plates for protection.
That said, when cornered and afraid, armadillos can attack with their teeth and claws. This is often very dangerous because armadillos are known carriers of transmissible diseases.
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Are Armadillos Aggressive Toward Humans?
Armadillos are passive creatures and, unless cornered, are very unlikely to show any aggression towards humans. They only eat worms and small insects, so there is zero chance of one attacking out of hunger.
However, when they feel trapped or threatened, they can become aggressive and their teeth, although very small, can absolutely penetrate your skin.
Armadillos also have razor-sharp claws, which are their primary weapon. Take it from me… you don’t want to be on the receiving end of an armadillo’s claws!
Do Armadillos Bite?
Contrary to popular belief, armadillos can absolutely bite you. I used to think they couldn’t bite since their teeth are so small and they only eat soft food like worms. I learned the hard way that they definitely can bite and won’t hesitate to do so when they feel trapped.
I have trapped my fair share of armadillos and been bitten more than once. These days, I always wear thick leather gloves when handling an armadillo. I highly recommend you do the same.
Are Armadillos Rabid?
Armadillos can spread a number of diseases. In fact, they are the only known creature that can transmit leprosy directly to humans through contact. Just about any wild animal can carry and transmit rabies, and armadillos are no exception.
I’ve been lucky because I’ve been bitten a few times and never contracted any disease but many people are not so fortunate. So, if you ever need to handle an armadillo, make sure that you wear proper protective gear, such as long sleeves and thick gloves.
What To Do If An Armadillos Bites You
If an armadillo bites you, the first thing you should do is wash the wound and apply first aid care, such as alcohol or another disinfectant, and then bandage the wound with gauze and head to your nearest medical provider.
As mentioned, armadillos can transmit a number of very serious diseases. Although you may get lucky and only receive a flesh wound, it’s still best to seek immediate medical attention.
Armadillo Feces and Urine
Although armadillos can spread harmful diseases to people by biting them, the biggest danger from armadillos actually comes from their excrement. Coming into contact with armadillo feces and urine is more likely to cause a serious infection than being bitten.
There are several diseases that armadillo droppings can cause, including leptospirosis, salmonella, mycobacteriosis, and histoplasmosis.
Here’s a rundown of each of these diseases so that you can appreciate and understand just how dangerous armadillo excrement is to humans:
This is a bacterial disease that can cause severe symptoms, such as high fever, muscle aches, chills, vomiting, abdominal pain, and even jaundice.
Some people who are infected with the disease show no symptoms but most people will exhibit one or more of these horrible symptoms.
Salmonella from armadillos is the same infection you can get from improperly handling raw chicken or eggs. Symptoms can last from six hours to six days and often include diarrhea, vomiting, and severe stomach cramps.
If you’ve ever had food poisoning, then you can imagine salmonella as being similar but ten times worse and lasting way longer.
One of the nastier infections you can get from coming in contact with armadillo excrement is mycobacteriosis, which causes large, painful abscesses to develop on your skin.
These abscesses are red, tender, and full of pus. In some cases, even when treated, people are left with lasting scars and blemishes where the abscesses were.
Histoplasmosis is a fungal disease that causes a number of serious symptoms such as chest pain, chills, fatigue, body aches, a cough, and sometimes a high fever. The worst part is that, in rare cases, these symptoms can last for years.
What Does Armadillo Poop Look Like?
Armadillo poop looks like pellets. Typically, the pellets are about an inch to an inch and a half long and usually contain visible remnants of worms, beetles, or other insects that the armadillo recently feasted on.
Ticks, Fleas, And Parasites
Armadillos also carry ticks, fleas, and other parasites, so even if they don’t bite you, scratch you, or infect you with their poop, there is still a chance that handling an armadillo can cause you to become infected because of contracting a disease from one of these other pests.
This is yet another reason why I say you should wear long sleeves and gloves when handling an armadillo.
Types Of Property Damage From Armadillos
So armadillos can be dangerous to people, even if only in specific circumstances. What’s much more likely, however, is that an armadillo will absolutely destroy your yard, costing you thousands of dollars in repair work.
The odds of you being bitten, clawed, or contracting a disease from armadillo excrement are very low when compared to the much more common damage they can do to property and landscapes.
This is exactly what happened to me the first time I encountered an armadillo. I woke up one day to discover that my well-manicured, professionally landscaped backyard had been destroyed seemingly overnight. In reality, the damage was probably caused over the course of a week or so, as I had been very busy at work and hadn’t been out in my backyard.
For those who have yet to come face to face with an armadillo, let me just tell you that these little pests are a nuisance that can damage your property in a number of different ways.
Allow me to go over the various ways that an armadillo can damage your property. As I do so, just know that I’m speaking from first-hand experience!
Damage Inside Your Home
It’s rare that an armadillo will make its way inside your home but it can happen. Over the years, I’ve had a number of clients call me because they forgot to close their patio door properly and an armadillo made its way into their home. If this happens, the creature can destroy your furniture, your valuables, and anything else in its path.
Burrowing Near Building Foundations
Armadillos burrow — that’s how they construct their homes, and it’s how they catch their food. They’re very good at it. Unfortunately, when an armadillo burrows close to your home, it can compromise the foundation of your house.
If not detected immediately, this can even affect the structural integrity of the premises. At the very least, it will cost you a good amount of money to repair. In the worst scenarios, you could be looking at thousands of dollars.
Urine And Feces Damage
Coming in contact with armadillo excrement can cause you to become infected with a disease. However, even if you don’t come in contact with the excrement, it can still cause a significant amount of damage to your lawn. Armadillo urine and feces contain harmful bacteria that can kill grass, plants, flowers, and so on.
Damage In The Yard
Armadillos can and will damage your yard if given the chance. They can destroy your flower beds, your deck, your fence, your lawn, and somehow even your brand new $2000 Napoleon Grills barbecue.
Armadillos dig under things and, when they do, uproot support systems, wooden beams, and everything else in their path. Their sharp claws won’t hesitate to tear through electrical cables, fuel lines, and anything else they come across underground.
Lawn And Landscaping Damage
In addition to destroying your yard, they will also destroy your grass, lawn, and landscaping. When they burrow, they literally tear your lawn apart, which will leave you with mounds of soil and uprooted grass everywhere, not to mention a very expensive landscaping repair bill.
Burrowing Under Decks And Fences
If you have a wooden deck or fence, then you can expect those to be ruined as well. Don’t be surprised if you come outside one day and notice that your deck has warped or that sections of your fence have been compromised.
Armadillos rip up wood like it’s nobody’s business. They aren’t good at burrowing through wood but they can sure dislodge it in a hurry.
The moment you see signs of them in your yard, it’s important that you set to work at understanding how to get rid of armadillos from your property quickly and effectively. Alternatively, contact your local pest control company immediately.
Burrowing Under Garden Sheds
The same goes for your garden shed and other outbuildings. An armadillo won’t care if you just spent three weekends painting and organizing your garden shed so that you could store your expensive new barbecue come winter. They’ll burrow right under it and tear it all apart just the same. Is it rude? Yes. Does it happen? Oh – you’d better believe it!
An armadillo will rip up your flower bed, garden, plants, and shrubs — you name it. You can protect your flower beds by putting down some wood chips and mulch, as armadillos prefer not to contend with this sort of wood. Even then, there’s no guarantee that your crops will still be standing in the morning.
What To Do If You Encounter An Armadillo
It’s very unlikely that you’ll actually come face to face with an armadillo. First of all, armadillos are nocturnal, which means that they usually only come out at night. So, unless you happen to be out in your yard at 3 am, you’ll probably only ever see the damage they cause.
Armadillos are also timid and afraid of people, so if one does spot you, it will usually take off to its nearest burrow.
However, once you realize that you have a problem in your yard, you have two options. Your first option is to understand the intricacies of trapping armadillos yourself. It’s the least expensive option, and you’ll need to understand the basics before trying it for yourself.
Otherwise, you should contact your local pest control company. They can send out a technician to bait some traps and take care of the problem for you. Either way, it’s going to cost you. It’s just a question of how much.
In Summary: Are Armadillos Dangerous To People?
In most cases, an armadillo will not attack you. Even when confronted, they often just freeze up and hope that their protective plates will save them. However, once trapped, armadillos do become aggressive, and they can attack you.
If you get bitten or clawed by an armadillo, then you’ll need to seek medical advice immediately because they can transmit very serious diseases, including Hansen’s disease AKA leprosy. Armadillo excrement can also cause infection, so tread carefully if you think you’re dealing with an armadillo in the area.
Finally, armadillos are responsible for a ton of property damage in the Southern United States. They can destroy your lawn, deck, fence, flowers, barbecue, and all kinds of stuff — even the foundation of your house. So, it’s important that you take immediate action when you detect the presence of an armadillo on your property.