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Armadillos, Squirrels, Cats, Dogs—The Problem Doesn't Matter; Mothballs are NEVER the Answer

Question. I have a real problem with armadillos digging up the yard. I have tried hot pepper, mothballs, fencing...all to no avail! Any suggestions other than waiting up all night to shoot them?
    ---Colleen in Lake Charles, LA
A local armadillo has decided that my garden is his lunch counter. He's destroyed about 150 feet of shrubs and flowers by either pulling them out of the ground or exposing the roots. Now he's trying to burrow under the house. I have tried pepper spray, moth crystals and a trap—all to no avail. (I'm not sure I baited the trap with the best thing – I was advised to try rotten fruit and hot dogs.) Do you have any other suggestions? Please?
    ---Noreen, just outside of Covington, LA; on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain
Answer. We Northerners tend to chuckle when we hear about armadillos, but those armored oddities can be real pests down South. First, of course, as the title of this article foreshadows, don't use mothballs or moth crystals or moth fill-in-the-blank anything. Even though it's still legal for companies to sell these cancer bombs, they're probably the most toxic product a homeowner can buy. AND they don't work (as your tale of woe reveals and as countless other listeners have lamented).

Although they recently renewed the registration of both toxic compounds used in the manufacture of mothballs and crystals, the EPA also warns that they are dangerous stuff. Their website notes that short-term exposure to the most common active ingredient, naphthalene—by smelling or touching—is "associated with hemolytic anemia, damage to the liver, and neurological damage. Symptoms of acute exposure include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, malaise, confusion, anemia, jaundice, convulsions, and coma. Again, this is from the EPA, not some hippy dippy anti-pesticide group. The EPA also classifies naphthalene as a possible human carcinogen.

Nice stuff, eh? You can see why so many garden writers and 'natural remedy' books seem to think that mothballs are some kind of nutrient. Again, you don't need these chemical killers to achieve anything in your home or landscape. The environment doesn't need them either.

OK—now onto the weird armored foe of our Louisiana listeners. Armadillos are notoriously hard to trap, as they greatly prefer live food. Much like moles, their diet consists mainly of worms and grubs in the soil, and they can tear up the landscape quite a bit looking for that food.

Some experts seem to have mastered the art of trapping them using live worms (in a porous bag to keep the worms from wriggling away). You can try this tactic yourself, but trap placement is also said to be key (and darned difficult). And armadillos carry lots of diseases—rabies and salmonella in addition to the legendary leprosy pathogen—so I'm liking that 'hire an expert trapper' option more every minute.

Oh, and its even more imperative to call in a pro when they're trying to get under a house, as that's typically the behavior of a mother making a den. Many people have disposed of a mom-adillo only to learn just how nasty a house can become when unattended young pass away under the floorboards. An expert trapper will remove any babies and rig an exclusion device that doesn't allow the mother's rentry if she isn't successfully trapped.