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Armadillos in Tennessee (Facts, Info, and Pictures)

If you’re a resident to southern U.S. states then you are probably used to seeing armadillos on the sides of the road. However for many other states north of Florida or Texas, like Tennessee, we are starting to see them too. Which brings us to the topic of this article, armadillos in Tennessee.

Are there armadillos in Tennessee?

The roadside critter that we think of in Tennessee is North America’s only marsupial, the Virginia Opossum. It seems as thought there’s a new species in many states ready to jump out in front of cars, and that’s the Nine-banded Armadillo. There’s no way of knowing at this time what the population of armadillos in Tennessee actually is, the only time we see them is when they have been struck by a car and are dead on the side of the road.

image: Thomas R Machnitzki | Wikimedia Commons | CC 3.0

So the answer to the question at hand is yes, there have been armadillos in the state of Tennessee since the early 2000s. However it isn’t clear when exactly they made their way into the state. As a lifelong Tennessee resident I can tell you that it’s only in recent years that it’s become somewhat common to see them, and many residents to the state still haven’t seen them.

Species of armadillos in Tennessee

There are about 20 different species of armadillos, all of which are found in the Americas.  Only one species, the Nine-banded Armadillo, has ventured north of the South American tropics, making it the only species of armadillo in Tennessee.

Are armadillos invasive to Tennessee?

Yes, armadillos are considered an invasive species not only to the state of Tennessee but North America. See below for more info on estimated range of the Nine-banded Armadillo in the United States.

Can you kill armadillos in Tennessee?

Nine-banded Armadillos can be hunted and killed any time in the state of Tennessee, according to TWRA spokesman Doug Markham. Like other invasive species they will compete with native wildlife for food and habitat, but they are not currently believed to be much of a threat to the environment or native wildlife.

About the Nine-banded Armadillo

  • Scientific name: Dasypus novemcinctus
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Length: 28 – 33 inches (adult including tail)
  • Weight: 6 – 14 pounds
  • Lifespan: 5 – 25 years

Armadillos are solitary animals that don’t enjoy interaction with anyone or anything, when they take a mate to procreate is about the only time they will.

When it comes to the Nine-banded Armadillo, there’s not much interest or funding available for studying the animals from a scientific perspective.

Armadillos in Tennessee are elusive and primarily nocturnal, making them hard to find unless it’s a dead one on the side of the road. There is at least one at the Nashville Zoo however, if you wish to see one up close.

With that in mind, lets take a look at what we do know about them.


The Nine-banded Armadillo is a highly adaptive mammal. They generally prefer living in a variety of forests but also live in grasslands, sand dunes, tropical rainforests, prairies, and scrublands.


Armadillos are foragers and feed on a variety of insects and invertebrates such as ants and larvae but will also eat small reptiles and amphibians. In the winter when food is scarce they may also eat plants and fruits.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

They were first introduced to Texas above the Rio Grande in 1849, New Mexico in 1905, and then Florida in 1924. Ever since they have been reproducing and their populations have grown and slowly expanding north. Within their quickly growing range in the U.S., these animals can adapt and survive in many different types of climates and habitats. They have even been spotted as far north as Chicago, Illinois which is known for extremely cold winters.

Where do armadillos live in the United States?

Overall population seems to be increasing and expanding. With the expansion and spreading from west to east. See the armadillo range map above to see if they’ve made their way into your state. Keep in mind though that because these animals aren’t tracked or studied so may have made their way into states and cities not shown on the above range map.

Armadillo FAQs

Can you get leprosy from armadillos?

Armadillos are known for carrying leprosy, though not all do. While the chances of actually contracting leprosy from an armadillo are slim to none, it is possible. According to CDC stats only about 150 to 250 people in the U.S. and 250,000 people around the world become infected with the disease each year.

Most of these cases are immigrants from third world or developing countries where leprosy is more common, it’s very rare in the United States.

Why do armadillos roll into a ball?

The only species of armadillo that can roll itself into a complete ball is the three-banded armadillo. It does so for self defense to protect itself from predators. The Nine-banded Armadillo that is found in Tennessee, like other species of armadillos, does have a hard and leathery shell that protects it.

The Nine-banded Armadillo’s primary method of self defense is to burrow into the ground and use its shell to protect its softer under-parts.

Are armadillos dangerous?

Armadillos are not dangerous animals. They do have sharp claws used for digging and if handled may cause damage when they are scared. Of course there is also the very slight risk of contracting leprosy. for the most part though armadillos just want to be left alone and will always run away if they encounter a human.

Are armadillos bulletproof?

Contrary to rumors you may have heard armadillos are not bullet-proof. Shooting an armadillo will likely kill it or at least injure it.

Are armadillos nocturnal?

As mentioned above, armadillos are primarily nocturnal animals. They come out at dusk to begin foraging for food and return to their burrows at dawn.

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