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Found an armadillo in Kansas City? That's becoming a more regular phenomenon

An armadillo named Ana Botafogo in honor of the Brazilian dancer stands in the Rio Zoo in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, May 21, 2014.
Silvia Izquierdo
Associated Press
Armadillos have recently been spotted as far north as the Missouri-Iowa border.

The nine-banded armadillo, which is native to Central and South America, has been migrating north for decades as average temperatures rise. And because of the mild winter Kansas City just had, it’s likely residents in the metro will notice more armadillos than usual in the coming months.

If you live in the Kansas City metro, you may have had the unusual experience of spotting an armadillo — possibly as roadkill.

Originally native to Central and South America, thenine-banded armadillo has been migrating north for decades, and has even been spotted as far north as the Missouri-Iowa border.

And given the mild winter Kansas City just experienced, chances are residents will be seeing a lot more armadillos through the summer.

“We only had a few really cold weeks, and armadillos are a fair weather animal. When it’s warmer out, they can move a lot more often and move into some newer areas,” Nate Bowersock, a biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation, said on KCUR’s Up To Date.

As climate change causes average temperatures to increase each year, these singular-looking mammals’ habitat has expanded further north.

 a hard-shelled mammal called a nine-banded armadillo stands on all fours and looks at the camera in a bed of dead leaves
Mike Conley
Missouri Department of Conservation
The nine-band armadillo has been migrating north into Missouri.

Is this a problem? According to Bowersock, that depends who you ask. Armadillos, ecologically speaking, have no negative impact on the environment. They actually have a positive impact.

“They don’t compete with other animals for resources, and they're really good burrowers, so they can create more habitat cover for burrowing animals,” he said.

But if you’re a rancher or home gardener, you may feel differently.

“We do see ranchers having issues because their cattle are stepping in the holes and so, in some cases, they are seen as a nuisance animal,” he said.

Bowersock said it's unlikely that the species goes much further north than Iowa.

“I don't think we're going to see them anywhere further north than that, because they have more sustained cold temperatures once you hit Minnesota and Wisconsin.”

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
As a producer for Up To Date, I create sound-rich talk show segments about the individuals and communities that call Kansas City home. Whether it’s a poet, a business owner or a local lawmaker, I seek out diverse voices to help break down the biggest stories of the day. After listening to the show, I want Up To Date listeners to feel informed and empowered to make decisions in their daily lives. You can reach me at claudiab@kcur.org
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