Nine-Banded Armadillo: Dasypus Novemcinctus

Image of nine banded armadillo foraging

Description Of The Nine-Banded Armadillo

The size of the nine-banded armadillo is that of a big house cat. It has a 15-17 inch long, gray to brownish-gray body. Its tail is about 14-16 centimeters long. It has scaly plates that cover its head, body, and tail, called scutes. The plates are large on their shoulders and rumps.

There are nine (sometimes fewer) narrow, jointed armor bands that let it bend on its midsection. It has a tiny, pointed head with a long snout, peg-like teeth, and large, pointed ears. There are big, thick, sharp claws on its front feet that help it dig and burrow. Its bottoms are soft. It does have a little fur on its body, although it is covered in armor.

The nine-banded armadillo is very temperature sensitive with so little fur. It is generally active during the warmest part of the day in the winter. It is active at night when it is cooler in the summer. The armadillo can die if temperatures drop too low. 1Go To Source -“Nine-Banded Armadillo – Dasypus novemcinctus”

Learn More: Armadillo Species Of North America

Nine-Banded Armadillo Habitat

Nine-banded armadillos are primarily found in tropical or scrub-bush regions. They are also found around woody areas in grasslands and savanna regions, but they prefer forests over grasslands because they forage for small invertebrates in forest litter. They do not occur in arid regions and thrive in riparian habitats or areas with plenty of water or with a minimum of 38 cm of rain per year.

Their preference for wet areas may be due to the increased availability of wetland food sources and softer soil, making it easier to dig and burrow. Nine-banded armadillos are highly adaptable to different habitats, as long as sufficient food and water supplies are available. They have also been observed near swampy or marshy regions but do not inhabit them commonly.

Also, temperature is an essential factor in habitat selection. At temperatures below 22 ° C, nine-banded armadillos begin to shiver, but the burrow’s warmth enables the armadillo to inhabit cold temperate areas during milder winters. In areas of low elevation, often around sea level, dense populations tend to occur.

While nine-banded armadillos do not often inhabit dense human populations, human presence does not limit them. In fact, human development may be associated with the northeastern expansion of their range. They seem to be traveling along man-made roads, bridges, railways, and other routes of travel.

Nine-banded armadillos create their homes in underground burrows within their habitats in forests, grasslands, and shrublands. The burrows’ size varies, but they can be up to 5 m long and 2 m deep. Some grasses and leaves may be brought in the burrow by the nine-banded armadillo. By placing plant debris around it, they often attempt to conceal the entrance. A male and a female may share these burrows during the mating season, but only a female and her young or young siblings usually share a burrow. 2Go To Source -“Nine-banded armadillo Dasypus novemcinctus”

Nine-Banded Armadillo Range

Photo of a nine banded armadillo.

In the southeastern United States, nine-banded armadillos are found, but their range has been continually expanding northward for more than a hundred years. As far north as Illinois and Nebraska, a few were even spotted. Its believed that armadillos had not reached their full North American range, which may reach as far north as Massachusetts, one study has predicted. Climate change triggered by rising atmospheric carbon will further the animal’s possible range.

They prefer warm, wet climates and live in habitats that are forest or grassland. For those amazing animals, small streams are no obstacle. For up to six minutes, the nine-banded armadillo can hold its breath and can swim or walk along the bottom of rivers. 3Go To Source -“Nine-Banded Armadillo”

Diet Of The Nine-Banded Armadillo

Armadillos are largely insectivores, but when available, they may consume fruit. A specialized diet is adapted to their skull, jaw, and teeth. With rear-facing hooks, their tongue is sticky and gives a rough texture to the tongue. The armadillo diet consists primarily of insect invertebrates (beetles, wasps, moth larvae), as well as ants, millipedes, centipedes, snails, leeches, and earthworms.

Research has found that the animals will also consume seeds and other vegetable matter. Newborn rabbits and at least one robin have been reported to be consumed armadillos. Whether they merely found these animals dead or alive is unknown. Salamanders, toads, frogs, lizards, skinks, and tiny snakes are other items known to be consumed by Armadillo. 4Go To Source -“Natural History Series: Nine-Banded Armadillo”

Nine-Banded Armadillo Behavior

Picture of nine banded armadillo preparing to burrow

Nine-banded armadillos are nocturnal or crepuscular, but they forage earlier in the day during cold or cloudy periods. They do not hibernate, but nine-banded armadillos are more active in the northern portion of their distribution during the summer months. Armadillos often swim/walk across the bottom of rivers and cold hold their breath for up to 6 minutes. The animal can also regulate its buoyancy to some degree by swallowing air. However, Armadillos tire fast and can not cross wide bodies of water.

By loosening the soil with their noses and forelimbs, nine-banded armadillos dig burrows and then kick the soil away with their hind limbs. There may be several entrances to a burrow, but there is the main entrance which the animal uses preferentially. Burrows range in length from 1 to 5 m and are a few cm to 2 m below ground. Multiple burrows, including one for nesting and several shallower ones used as food traps, may have nine-banded armadillos.

Nine-banded armadillos typically do not share burrows, aside from mating pairs or mothers with very young litter. However, incidences of non-related adults sharing a nest have been reported in cold weather, and it is speculated that this may be a means of thermoregulating these armadillos at the northern limits of their distribution.

Nine-banded armadillos are typically not aggressive towards one another, but nursing females may be aggressive, even towards their own older offspring. Older males occasionally exhibit aggressive conduct towards younger males during the mating season. Aggressive behavior does not usually result in serious injuries, such as kicking or chasing.

Nine-banded armadillos usually freeze when agitated by a perceived threat. They can also jump up and sprint over short distances. Usually, a frightened nine-banded armadillo seeks a burrow, and once inside, it arches its back and braces its feet, making it hard to remove. The animal may seek dense thorny underbrush if a burrow is not nearby, as its tough exterior relatively protects it. 5Go To Source -“Dasypus novemcinctus nine-banded armadillo”

Reproduction Of Nine-Banded Armadillos

Photograph of nine banded armadillo.

Typically, nine-banded Armadillos are solitary animals but will pair up briefly to mate in the summer. After the egg is fertilized, the egg’s implantation is delayed for several months, allowing the young armadillo to be born after four months of gestation in the spring, when the weather is warmer.

Armadillos with nine bands give birth to four offspring at a time, and the young are identical quadruplets. The young armadillos’ leathery skin is soft at birth, taking a few weeks to harden into their protective armor. 6Go To Source -“Nine-Banded Armadillo Dasypus novemcinctus”

Nine-Banded Armadillo Life Expectancy

In the wild, the average life span of an armadillo is anywhere from 12 years to 15 years. Those living in captivity (zoos) may live up to 22 years. 

Top 5 Predators Of The Nine-Banded Armadillo

  1. Dogs
  2. Wild cats
  3. Coyotes
  4. Foxes
  5. Bears

Nine-Banded Armadillo Conservation

Nine-banded armadillo populations are growing because humans have killed off the majority of their predators. The biggest threat to these armadillos is roadways since most of this species uses roads for easy travel.

Since this armadillo has a tendency to jump when startled, this often leads to their death on roadways. They often find themselves underneath vehicles and jump into the undercarriage of cars.

A less frequent threat is from pest control professionals. Some companies will shoot, position, or capture armadillos that are appearing as agricultural pests.



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  2. McDonald, K. and J. Larson 2011. “Dasypus novemcinctus” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed January 18, 2021 at
  3. NWF. “Nine-Banded Armadillo.” National Wildlife Federation, Accessed 19 Jan. 2021.
  4. Mengak, Michael. “Using Milorganite to Temporarily Repel White-Tailed Deer from Food Plots.” University Of Georgia Extension, UGA, 1 June 2006,
  5. McDonald, K. and J. Larson 2011. “Dasypus novemcinctus” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed January 18, 2021 at
  6. “Nine-Banded Armadillo.” Cosley Zoo, Accessed 19 Jan. 2021.