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Unlikely southern creature has been spotted in northern states: 'They might even get up all the way into New England'

The little armored ones have also reached Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa.

The little armored ones have also reached Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa.

Photo Credit: iStock

The nine-banded armadillo has moved from Texas and the Southeast to the Midwest and North Carolina, and Massachusetts may not be too far behind.

The scaly mammals have been expanding their range northward since the 1900s, and they made a splash in the Tar Heel State earlier this year, Axios reported in April. Armadillos were first spotted in North Carolina in 2007, and sightings are up 67% since 2020.

"The little armored ones" have also reached Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa, National Wildlife Federation naturalist David Mizejewski told Axios.

"The predictions are that with the current climate conditions, they're going to keep expanding and they might even get up all the way into New England," he said. "The fact that our average temperatures are going up because of climate change has been the main reason why they've been able to expand north."

There are 20 species of armadillos but only one in the U.S. The creatures are covered in bony plates and prefer to live in forests and grasslands. The nine-banded armadillo can hold its breath for six minutes and walk on river bottoms, according to the NWF.

They eat mostly invertebrates, small reptiles and amphibians, eggs, and plant matter, a readily available diet. And since humans have killed many of their predators, this has helped them grow their population and expand their territory. The nocturnal animals give birth to identical quadruplets and live to be seven to 20 years old in the wild.

Axios reported armadillos will continue their migration as winters become milder and that they can survive cold spells by staying in burrows for days at a time. Western states have remained armadillo-free because of limited water sources and rainfall.

The change in habitat mirrors similar moves by species from tropical locales to northern regions. In one such instance, a limpkin — native to South America, Mexico, and Florida — was spotted in Pennsylvania.

The CBC reported that "scientists expect the rate of emergence of new diseases to triple over the next several decades due to increased interaction between humans and animals."

These changes are already being driven by warming temperatures across the planet, and "holding warming under 2 °C (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) within the twenty-first century will not reduce future viral sharing," according to a 2022 study published in Nature.

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