ST. LOUIS–Four years of data collected by researchers at Southern Illinois University Carbondale suggests that nine-banded armadillos, which have been in Illinois’ southern counties for years, will continue to move north. It’s a reason why experts still want people to report sightings two years after the research ended.

“Although temperature and precipitation are thought to limit northern expansion to the 40th parallel north, armadillos have successfully adapted to a broader range of environmental conditions and surpassed thresholds from previous models thought to be too cold to support the establishment of a new population,
with records as far north as Nebraska and Indiana,” Carly J. Haywood, Clayton K. Nielsen and F. Agustín Jimenez wrote in the Journal Diversity about a study published in June 2021. “In Illinois, sightings have increased dramatically since the early 2000s, and breeding populations have become established in the state.”

Haywood tells FOX2 that the creatures will continue moving north due to climate and habitat changes. “It’s likely that they will be following waterways to move north as they need access to fresh water and brushy/wooded habitat,” she said in an email.

People with recent armadillo sightings are still encouraged to report them to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and to Jimenez via email at agustinjs@siu.edu so that researchers can continue to track the animals’ movement.

Armadillos are known carriers of parasites and illness, including leprosy. But Haywood’s research also revealed that the disease was not found in any of the Illinois specimens.

In Missouri, the animals have been found in both the north and south parts of the state.