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Nine-Banded Armadillo Discovered in Bernheim Forest 

By Evan Patrick

After years of reports and possible sightings, the nine-banded armadillo was recently confirmed as the newest species and 51st mammal in Bernheim Forest. The discovery was verified by Bernheim staff when an armadillo was found on a roadside, unfortunately, hit and killed by a car, a common occurrence in areas with robust armadillo populations. Scattered reports, sightings, and one individual confirmed animal suggest a small population within Bernheim, but the range of this unique mammal is expanding rapidly.

Prior to and through the 19th century, armadillos were concentrated in southern North America, Central America, and South America. Several factors, including overhunting of predators, climate change, a high reproductive rate, and some reports of relocation by humans, have allowed this species to greatly expand its range within the last century. An animal that was once associated with the southwest is now found in states across the Midwest and South.

Fast expansion of species ranges, particularly when assisted or caused by humans, can have detrimental effects on ecological systems. Armadillos are insectivores and dig through loose soil and leaf litter to find food. This type of foraging can damage root systems of plants and spread invasive species, but one published study found that many other animals use the burrows created by armadillos for shelter, including bobcat, coyote, rabbit, and reptiles. Although there is some concern about the new presence of armadillos, little is known about how these creatures might impact the habitats of Bernheim Forest, either negatively or positively. The Natural Areas Team, along with visiting researchers, will closely monitor as this population grows.

Though there is some uncertainty about how armadillos will impact Bernheim habitats, one thing is certain – they are unique and charismatic animals. Named after the scutes (a dermal bony plate) on their outer shell, the nine-banded armadillo is unlike any other mammal that can be seen within the forest. Be on the lookout during your next visit and you too might get a chance to see this southwestern armored creature.

 

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