Nine Banded Armadillo

Scientific Name
Dasypus novemcinctus
Also Known As
Armored Pig, Hoover Hog
All of Florida
Grubs, Beetles, Ants, Termites
Life Expectancy
5 - 7 Years
The Nine-banded Armadillo

Photo 4238749 (c) Bridget Spencer, CC BY-NC

Nine Banded Armadillo conservation status - Least Concern

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Green Iguanas in Central Florida

The nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) is a unique, armored mammal found throughout central Florida. Often seen rooting along roadsides or foraging in yards, armadillos are one of the more familiar exotic species in the region. This guide covers key identification features, biology, impacts, and control methods for nine-banded armadillos in central Florida.

Appearance and Identification

Nine-banded armadillos can be identified by their bony, armor-like shell and distinctively long, tapering snout.

Adult Nine-banded Armadillo

Photo 270561456 (c) Jim ONeill, CC BY-NC

Adult Nine-Banded Armadillos

  • Size: Adults reach 24-32 inches (61-81 cm) in length, including the tail, and weigh 8-17 lbs (3.6-7.7 kg).
  • Shell: The shell is comprised of overlapping bony plates covered in tough skin. It is divided into three sections with flexible joints in-between. Nine moveable bands allow the shell to flex so the armadillo can roll into a ball.
  • Color: Can range from yellow or tan to brown or gray. The head, limbs, and underside are lighter in color.
  • Snout: Distinctively long, tapering snout used for digging. It houses a sticky tongue good for catching ants, beetles, and other prey.
  • Claws: Very large, sharp claws on front feet used for tearing into ant mounds and grubbing soil.
  • Eyes: Small, beady eyes lacking peripheral vision. They rely heavily on smell and hearing due to poor eyesight.
  • Tail: Long, thick tail that stores fat and balances the rear when hopping.
  • Scent Glands: Ability to mark territory with strong-smelling secretions from scent glands under the shell.
Juvenile Nine-banded Armadillo

Juvenile Nine-Banded Armadillos

  • Size: Newborns are just 4-5 inches (10-13 cm) long, weighing 3-4 ounces (85-113 grams). They reach 10 inches (25 cm) by six weeks old.
  • Shell: The soft, leathery shell is pinkish in color. It does not fully harden and develop distinct bands until adulthood.
  • Snout: The snout is proportionally longer compared to adults.

Maturation Rate

The bony shell takes 8-10 weeks to fully harden after birth. Sexual maturity is reached by one year old. Adults continue growing until age three when they reach their maximum size.

Habits and Behavior

Armadillos are solitary, nocturnal omnivores. They spend the day in self-dug burrows or brushy areas, emerging at dusk to forage. Coastal populations may be more crepuscular or diurnal to avoid hot inland daytime temperatures.

Armadillos shuffle along slowly while foraging but can sprint, jump, and swim when startled. Their armor helps defend against predators like bobcats, coyotes, and free-roaming dogs. If threatened, armadillos may react by leaping straight into the air, grunting loudly, or shuffling away rapidly.

Nine-banded armadillos marking and burrowing habits can damage lawns, gardens, tree roots, and building foundations. Their constant rooting for grubs and insects aerates and disturbs soil. Burrows are used for sleeping, rearing young, and escape from extreme heat or cold.

Reproduction and Lifespan

The breeding season for nine-banded armadillos in Florida is July through August. After a gestation of 60-120 days, the female gives birth to genetically identical quadruplets from one fertilized egg. This is because armadillos have an unusual reproductive strategy called polyembryony, where a single fertilized egg splits into four embryos.

Newborns weigh just 3-4 oz (85-113 g) at birth. Young stay in the burrow for 2-3 weeks, then begin following their mother while foraging. They are weaned by 4 months old but remain close to the mother until the following mating season when they disperse to establish their own range.

In the wild, armadillos live up to 12 years. Predators, hunting, road mortality, and extreme cold limit average lifespan to just 5-7 years in cooler parts of their range. The warmer climate of central Florida allows higher survival.