Armadillo habitat is limited based on several factors. Armadillo habitats are not found in arid regions, such as deserts, or very cold areas. Because the armadillo’s circulatory system includes hot blood going out through arteries and being cooled by cold blood coming in through veins, a propensity for frostbite excludes very cold regions from being populated by armadillos. All armadillo species, except for the Nine-banded armadillo, are threatened by habitat loss and over-hunting.
While armadillo habitat is limited by temperature it remains expansive. The Nine-banded armadillo, one of 19 species of armadillos, is found throughout several continents including South, Central and North America, and is the only species of armadillo found in North America. Armadillo habitats for all species are found as far south as Argentina in South America with the Nine-banded varieties extending as far north as Oklahoma and into Missouri in North America.
Armadillo habitat is not limited by water as a physical barrier. A relatively new resident of the United States, the armadillo arrived here around 1850 by crossing the Rio Grande River from Mexico into Texas. Based on their physical appearance it is hard to believe that this armored creature can swim for long distances but they have a rather interesting trait that allows for them to cross rivers-they can hold their breath! Scientists have determined that the armadillo can inflate its stomach and intestines by pulling in air, thereby increasing its buoyancy and allowing it to float across wider rivers. Additionally, an armadillo can simply hold its breath in its lungs, like you and I, and walk across the bottom of narrow streams, thus creeks and streams do not adversely affect the armadillo habitat.
Though, the state of Florida makes an inviting habitat for the armadillo, their presence there has been attributed mostly to those that have escaped from zoos and traveling circuses. The territory of those two (2) populations has merged into one (1) widening range consequently expanding the armadillo habitat greatly.
Armadillos live in temperate and warm habitats, keeping them from expanding their range beyond the southern regions of the US. Having a lower body temperature than most mammals they cannot tolerate long periods of cold weather. They tolerate short periods by hiding in their underground burrows. The Nine-banded armadillo will begin to shiver at about 71 degrees Fahrenheit. The earth around a cozy burrow, however, keeps things a bit warmer than the outside and as such allows the armadillo to inhabit areas further north that have milder winters. That said, it has been determined that the armadillo will not be able to survive in a climate where the average January temperature gets much below freezing.
The amount of rainfall in the area is also important to determining armadillo habitat. It has been estimated that they prefer to live in climates that provide up to 38 cm of rainfall annually. Reasons for this have been hypothesized to include associations between rainfall amounts and the quantities of food available, and the effect rainfall has on soil conditions. As long as sufficient food and water supplies are available, Nine-banded armadillos are very adaptable to many different habitats.
Because they dig for both food and shelter the armadillo is very particular about the soils that it inhabits. Armadillos will prefer your yard and gardens if the soil is soft and/or you have rotting wood nearby (rotting wood will be home to ants and termites that the animal finds irresistibly delicious!). Sandy soils are preferred over clay because the heavy clay soils make digging more difficult. The naturally shallow and rocky soils found in central Texas make very attractive Nine-banded armadillo habitats.