An injured armadillo has turned up in Charlotte, suggesting the animal has migrated to Mecklenburg County, according to a regional wildlife advocacy group.
Carolina Waterfowl Rescue posted the information about the armadillo Friday, noting it was at the shelter “being stabilized” after it was attacked by another animal.
“Armadillos in Charlotte? Yes!” said a statement posted on Facebook. “Armadillo populations spreading into more northern territories like North Carolina is certainly unexpected, but it seems that milder winters have given them the chance to establish themselves in these now warmer climates.”
The statement concluded with a warning: “If you see one in the wild, please do not approach them, just treat them like you would any wildlife.”
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Nine-banded armadillos are largely nocturnal and not considered dangerous, but they are known to carry a bacteria that can lead to leprosy and they can transmit it to humans, reports the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
They largely feed on insects and are infamous for digging burrows, where they sleep much of the day, says National Geographic.
State officials began asking the public for help documenting N.C. armadillo sightings in 2013, noting there had been confirmed sightings in some counties along the southwestern border of the state.
“Credible observations” had been made in Mecklenburg County three years ago, but none were confirmed, according to a state report.
State officials agree with Carolina Wildlife Rescue that milder winters are helping armadillos expand their range north, through the Carolinas.
“Whether armadillos continue spreading beyond their current range will be largely determined by climate,” said state wildlife biologist Colleen Olfenbuttel, in a 2013 report. “Mild temperature conditions are good for armadillos. Since they lack thick insulation and must dig for most foods, freezing conditions can cause them to starve or freeze to death.”