SIUC launches armadillo impact research after increased sighting - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

SIUC launches armadillo impact research after increased sightings

(Source: Missouri Department of Conservation) (Source: Missouri Department of Conservation)

Researchers at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale are launching a study into the long-term implications of an increasing number of armadillos in southern Illinois.

The convergence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers is thousands of miles away from the Nine-Banded Armadillo’s natural habitat, but it has become common place to see the creature over the course of the past several years in parts of the Heartland.

SIU Zoology Department Associate Professor Agustin Jimenez said more mild winters could be allowing the animals to flourish in the area.

Jimenez said the creature first started migrating in the mid-1800s, and was spotted locally first in the mid-1990s.

Jimenez said the most likely reasoning for the rapid lateral migration is the change in rural landscapes from native wildlife to agricultural acreage.

The Missouri Department of Conservation reported earlier this year that there was a very large concentration of the creature along I-55 in Missouri.

“They have been absent from southern Illinois for a number of years because the rivers were thought to be acting as a barrier for their dispersal,” Jimenez said. “Now, it’s evident they have cleared that barrier.”

Among independent research, Jimenez is documenting sightings with the help of what he calls "citizen scientists".

Those individuals send him pictures or videos of live sightings so Jimenez can geo-map and track migration patterns.

Additionally, Jimenez’s studies are focused on tracking parasites and diseases not normally found in the area, which the animals are known to carry.

Those afflictions include Leprosy and Chagas Disease, although he said the specimens he’s tested so far are not carriers.

“This a unique opportunity because we can understand how these animals are dispersing northward and whether they are carrying or not carrying parasites,” Jimenez said.

It’s estimated more than 95 percent of humans are naturally immune to Leprosy.

Chagas disease is also carried by an insect widely known as the "kissing bug".

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