New Jersey and New York Could Soon Be Filled With Armadillos

There could one day be armadillos all over these two states.

Jamie Bichelman - Author
By

May 16 2024, Published 4:22 p.m. ET

An armadillo is pictured standing atop grass with trees in the background.
Source: iStock

Undomesticated animals, like armadillos, are best left free in the wild — but does their wild include New Jersey and New York? It could, if expert predictions wind up being true.

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Additionally, armadillos, who are sometimes kept unethically as exotic pets, are occasionally abandoned by careless owners, leaving these animals in unnatural wild environments, and therefore susceptible to harm.

Let's explore whether armadillos can be found in either New York or New Jersey.

An armadillo is pictured from the front while sitting in a pile of brown leaves.
Source: iStock
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Are there armadillos in New Jersey?

No, there aren't wild armadillos in New Jersey — but there could be in a few years' time.

The nine-banded armadillo, according to National Geographic, is native to the U.S., specifically the central and southern states. But increasingly warmer winters are coalescing with a steadily evolving range upon which the armored mammal has been observed exploring, resulting in predictions that adventurous armadillos will one day make their way to the New Jersey wild.

The armadillo's northeasterly expansion, National Geographic says, has been a century in the making.

As National Geographic explains, the nine-banded armadillo was introduced to the state of Texas in the late 1800s. Since then, factors like climate change have upended wildlife expert predictions for the boundaries of the armadillo's preferred territories.

"Over the decades, scientists have set limits [on the armadillo's range] based on temperature," armadillo expert Colleen McDonough told National Geographic, "and these animals seem to have surprised most [experts] by surpassing these."

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So far, armadillos have been identified in northern states like Illinois and Nebraska, according to the National Wildlife Federation. So long as an armadillo can locate moist soil with ample insects and tolerable winter weather, per National Geographic, the animal can in theory call that state home.

An armadillo rests with its eyes closed atop a field of grass and yellow dandelions.
Source: iStock
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Are there armadillos in New York?

No, there doesn't yet appear to be evidence of armadillos living in the wild in New York. That said, whereas New Jersey is poised to one day play host to the expanded range of the nine-banded armadillo, New York state appears to have already positioned armadillos as an invasive species.

The New York City-based Hunter's Wildlife Control offers armadillo removal services, citing in part the animal's detrimental impact on home gardens.

Keeping an armadillo as a pet in New York is prohibited. It is considered a violation of the New York City Housing Authority's Pet Policy and may leave the offender open to a violation issued by the state's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

While it seems obvious that wild animals should not be kept as pets, and forced domestication of wild animals is both unethical and dangerous for all involved, this wasn't the case in New York until very recently.

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According to the New York Post, it wasn't until April 2023 that legislation was introduced to ban wild animals, like the armadillo, from being kept by humans as companion animals or pets. A year later in April 2024, the state passed animal protection measures, including the ban on cohabiting with, importing, owning, and selling wild animals, per Spectrum News.

Aside from reports of illegally kept and abandoned armadillos in the state of New York, there is a general sense among experts and amateur aficionados alike that armadillos will naturally make their way to New York.

According to armadillo-online.org, range prediction models tab New York as a state that may one day feature a steady population of armadillos. But again, there is still no evidence of armadillos in the wild in either New York or New Jersey.

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