NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — When you think of armadillos, Texas or some dry, dusty region of the country might come to mind. But nowadays, they are found right here in Middle Tennessee.

Armadillos had a well-established population in far West Tennessee by the 1960s and 1970s, and eventually, made their way eastward.

“In the eastern two-thirds of the state, Middle Tennessee and eastern Tennessee, we didn’t really have armadillos,” noted Dr. Tim Gaudin, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Professor of Biology, Geology, & Environmental Science. “The first reports I started getting were in the early 2,000s.”

Armadillo in Tennessee
Armadillo in the Murfreesboro area. (Courtesy: DeAnn Hays)

The first report Gaudin received in East Tennessee was at the University of the South in Sewanee on the Cumberland Plateau, which is not what he expected. Since they are originally from South America, they were considered warm weather creatures. However, they were able to adapt to cold weather and have even made their way into the Smoky Mountains.

“When they showed up in the Smokies, which they did a few years ago, they showed up at Newfound Gap at an elevation of 5,000 feet,” Dr. Gaudin pointed out. “That was the first place we saw armadillos in the Smokies, not down at Cades Cove or the lower elevations that you might expect.”

But armadillos can be somewhat of a nuisance to homeowners.

“They really like lawns that are well watered because they eat the insects that are in the ground,” Dr. Gaudin said. “And so, if you maintain a nice garden and you water it, you maintain a nice lawn and you water it, you are providing a really good habitat for those bugs or soil arthropods armadillos like to eat. And they’re perfectly happy to come in and relieve you of them by coming in and digging up your garden or your lawn.”

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Because they eat bugs, they are hard to trap with a traditional trap. So, it is suggested that you contact a critter removal service. It is also recommended that you don’t handle them because they are one of the few mammals, besides humans, that has been found to carry leprosy.

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It should be noted that would be a rare occurrence, and no cases have ever been reported in Tennessee.