Seeing more armadillos on Missouri roads? Here’s why & what to know about the critters

Driving down a Missouri road, you might find an armadillo walking next to the road — or dead beside it.

These unusual-looking mammals are known for digging up gardens for their underground burrows and frequently becoming roadkill.

Missourians are finding more armadillos in the Show Me State, from Kansas City to the Ozarks, and across the rest of Missouri.

Learn about armadillos in Missouri from the Missouri Department of Conservation and the University of Missouri Extension.

What is an armadillo?

Originally found in Central and South America, the nine-banded armadillo moved into Texas in the 1800s and its habitat has been expanding ever since. The nine-banded armadillo, only species native to North America, is considered common by the Missouri Department of Conservation, especially in areas south of the Missouri River.

The hard plates on the armadillo’s body and tail give the animal its name, which translates to “little armored one” in Spanish.

The size of a large house cat, armadillos are burrowing animals who catch insects and grubs with their tongues and swallow them whole. Armadillos can carry leprosy, so wear gloves when handling them, dead or alive.

While armadillos mate during the summer, they do not give birth until the following spring, so you may see more of the critters this time of year.

Why are there armadillos in Missouri?

Climate change plays a part.

Historically, American armadillos have stayed in warm areas in the southeast, since they cannot tolerate the cold. Since they do not hibernate, armadillos go into their burrows during the cold, where they can freeze or starve. As winters get warmer in Missouri, these animals have ventured north.

Why do they get hit by cars so much?

In addition to poor hearing and sight, the MDC said armadillos ”have the unusual habit of jumping upright when frightened, which explains why so many are hit by automobiles.”

This practice is meant to scare off predators like coyotes and bobcats, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t work on cars.

Do you have more questions about wildlife in the Kansas City area? Ask the Service Journalism team at