ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – MoDOT confirms a significant jump in armadillo strikes and roadkill cleanups around St. Louis.

Drivers even told FOX 2 it’s worse in Missouri than Texas. It’s especially noticeable driving west and south through St. Charles and Jefferson counties.

Drivers reported passing dozens, even hundreds, of the carcasses on Interstates 70, 44, and 55 in the span of about 150 miles.

Tim and Lynnie Kline of St. Charles County just drove from their home to the Lake of the Ozarks.

“We count them on the way just to pass the time,” Tim said.

“It’s a game: who finds the first one, who sees the most,” Lynnie said.

“We are definitely seeing more and more of them,” said Dan Zarlenga of the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Missouri doesn’t track armadillo populations, but sightings have been reported nearly as far north as the Iowa border, according to Zarlenga. The mammals feed mostly on insects, digging just a few inches into the ground. Our warmer winters are apparently the draw.

“The ground doesn’t freeze hard enough anymore to where it would kill them. They can still get food,” Zarlegna said. “They’re sort of becoming, I guess, what we might call naturalized wildlife, where they’re becoming more and more common and they’ve moving in on their own. They’re kind of colonizing Missouri.”

“I’ve never seen one alive. They’re always dead on the side of the road. I can’t wait to see a live one,” Tim said.

Armadillos tend to jump straight up in self-defense, which doesn’t work so well in vehicle traffic.

People in Columbia and Jefferson City are seeing more of them alive. It’s likely people in the St. Louis region will, too. They won’t bother you, aside from maybe digging in your yard or garden.

“They’re not going to attack you. They’re not going to even know you’re there,” Zarlenga said. “You’re likely to startle it as much as it startles you because they don’t have very good vision.”

The Missouri State Highway Patrol has this message: if you see an armadillo and have time to slow down to avoid it, go ahead and do so, but limit any sudden swerving that could endanger you or another driver.