While walking around Athens Memorial Park, I stumbled upon a strange sight – the undergrowth was rustling, a clear sign that something was foraging. Out sprang three nine-banded armadillos (Dasypus novemcintus) which continued to forage within inches of me. These animals were so unafraid of humans that I could have touched them – though I did not, as armadillos are known carriers of leprosy, though transmission to humans is very rare. I watched these creatures expertly dig and nibble through the understory, astonished to see living specimens right in front of me.
In Sewanee, the only armadillos I have seen were dead on the side of the road, but they have already made it to the top of the mountain and may be impacting our forests. Soil disturbances, likely made by armadillos, can be found around the Domain. Dr. Jon Evans speculates that these omnivores may be decimating our populations of ground-nesting bees and other insects.