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Illinois Outdoors

Bob Rutkowski of New Athens photographed this armadillo in St. Clair County in early March of 2008.

Another Illinois armadillo sighting

March 15, 2008 at 09:25 AM

Bob Rutkowski of New Athens was looking for shed antlers the other day but wound up finding much more.

During his hike through the Kaskaskia River valley in southern St. Clair County, Rutkowski’s dog got excited.
Illinois OutdoorsTurns out the pooch was on the trail of an armadillo it chased into the hole of a tree. Thankfully, Rutkowski (pictured at right) carries a camera (the fruits of which he frequently posts on his SIL Web site). So he followed the trail to the tree and clicked the above picture of another Illinois armadillo.

If that sounds hard to believe, you’ve not been keeping close tabs on the steady northern migration of armadillos, which have been present in southern Illinois since the 1970s and have been spotted as far north as Pike County near Quincy. Sightings have been on the rise in recent years and a study by the Illinois Natural History Survey showed 80 Prairie State reports from 1999-2003, most from 22 counties in the southwestern corner of the state. Naturally, that includes St. Clair County.

Here’s an excerpt from a 2006 column by Phil Luciano of the Peoria Journal Star.

“They’ve been moving north naturally,” says Lynn Robbins, a biology professor and armadillo expert at Missouri State University.

An armadillo is the size of a large house cat, weighing up to 17 pounds. The mammals have sharp claws, long snouts and hard-shelled backs of bone.

Long native to South America, armadillos eventually pushed through central America and Mexico before stopping just north of the Rio Grande by the early 19th century. One reason for the lull might have been the abundance of natural prey in Texas, such as cougars, that scared off armadillos—the smart ones, at least.

That they can survive in cold weather is a bit surprising, since armadillos do not hibernate. Even so, there’s an expectation they could be moving into central Illinois within a decade. Armadillos can survive where they find an abundant source of water and where the average January temperature is above 28 degrees. Rivers, creeks, ponds and lakes are abundant in southern Illinois, where the average winter temperature ranges from 32 to 36 degrees.

So sightings like Rutkowski’s might become even more common.

The only problem with armadillos is that they love to dig for grubs and can do plenty of damage to landscaped areas. And they are also fast little open-field runners.


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There was one road kill just 1/4 mile north of Mascoutah on IL 4 last week

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