Can an armadillo hurt you?

Quick Answers

An armadillo can potentially hurt you in a few different ways:

– Armadillos can bite if threatened or handled roughly. Their bites are not venomous but can cause infection.

– Armadillos can transmit diseases to humans through contact with their blood, saliva, or feces. These include leprosy, Chagas disease, and salmonellosis.

– Armadillos have sharp claws that they can use to scratch if feeling threatened. The scratches may be deep enough to draw blood.

– Baby armadillos can harm humans unintentionally with their soft shells and claws, as they do not yet control their movements.

So in summary, while armadillos are not aggressive animals, they do have the potential to injure or transmit diseases to humans under certain circumstances. Caution should be used if encountering armadillos in the wild.

Can an Armadillo Bite You?

Yes, armadillos can and will bite if they feel threatened or are handled roughly. Armadillos have small, sharp teeth that can break the skin and draw blood if they choose to bite.

An armadillo’s bite is not venomous or poisonous, so it will not cause any lasting health issues beyond potential infection at the wound site. Armadillo mouths also contain bacteria that could lead to infection if their saliva enters a bite wound or other open cut.

Some signs that an armadillo may bite include:

– Hissing or grunting
– attempting to run away
– Rolling up tightly into a ball
– Having rigid, tense body language

Armadillos often bite out of self-defense if they are picked up or feel cornered by a potential predator or threat. They typically only bite as a last resort.

While armadillo bites are not pleasant experiences, they are very rarely fatal or excessively dangerous to humans. The bite may be painful and bleed heavily, but basic first aid like washing, disinfecting, and bandaging the wound is often sufficient treatment. However, it is advisable to see a doctor if signs of infection develop including redness, swelling, warmth, or pus. Antibiotics may be prescribed if an infection occurs.

With appropriate caution and respect for their space, the chances of being bitten by an armadillo are quite low. It is best to admire armadillos from a safe distance in the wild and avoid interacting with them whenever possible.

Diseases Armadillos Can Transmit to Humans

Armadillos can carry and transmit several types of diseases to humans through contact with their blood, saliva, or feces. Some of the most common diseases linked to armadillos include:


– Also called Hansen’s disease, leprosy is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae
– Armadillos are one of the few known non-human animal reservoirs for M. leprae bacteria
– The bacteria can be transmitted through contact with armadillo nasal secretions, blood, or open wounds

Chagas Disease

– Caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi and transmitted by triatomine insects
– Armadillos are a major reservoir host for T. cruzi parasites
– Can be contracted if T. cruzi-infected triatomine bug feces enter broken skin from armadillo contact


– Caused by various Salmonella bacteria species transmitted through the fecal-oral route
– Salmonella bacteria can be present in armadillo droppings
– Humans can contract salmonellosis by accidentally ingesting bacteria from contact with feces


– Caused by roundworms of the Trichinella species
– Humans can develop trichinosis if they eat raw or undercooked armadillo meat containing Trichinella larvae
– Uncommon disease but has been reported from consumption of armadillo flesh

To limit disease risk, avoid touching or handling armadillos with your bare hands. Never consume wild armadillo meat before thorough cooking. Maintaining good hand hygiene after any contact with wildlife is also recommended. See a doctor if suspicious symptoms develop after exposure to armadillos.

Can Armadillos Scratch You with Their Claws?

Yes, armadillos have sharp, curved claws on their feet that they can use to scratch if they feel threatened or want to defend themselves.

An armadillo’s claws are designed for digging burrows and finding food in the soil. However, they can also be used as defensive weapons.

The nine-banded armadillo has especially large and sharp claws up to around 1.5 inches long on their front feet. If an armadillo lashes out with its claws due to fear or stress, they can scratch deeply enough to draw blood or cause injury.

Armadillo scratches are usually not fatal or overly dangerous unless they become significantly infected. But they can be painful and take time to fully heal depending on their size and depth.

Scratches or puncture wounds from armadillos have some risk of becoming infected since their claws can harbor bacteria from digging in soil. Signs of an infected armadillo scratch are redness, swelling, oozing, increased pain, and warmth around the site. See a doctor for evaluation if these symptoms appear.

While not aggressive by nature, armadillos will understandably try to protect themselves if they perceive a threat. It is wise to avoid getting too close and startle or corner wild armadillos. Never try to pick up or handle a live armadillo without appropriate training and protection. If scratched, clean the wound immediately and watch for infection signs.

Can Baby Armadillos Harm You?

Baby armadillos can unintentionally harm or scratch humans, but they are not intentionally aggressive. Harm from baby armadillos is usually accidental and results from the following factors:

Soft Shell

– Baby armadillos have soft, leathery shells without the hardened scutes of adults
– Their shells provide little protection, so they can get injured if handled roughly

Poor Eyesight

– Newborn armadillos have very poor eyesight and sense of smell
– They will squirm if startled because they cannot see or recognize nearby humans

Sharp Claws

– Baby armadillos have sharp claws right away that they cannot fully control
– Their claws can scratch skin if they flail around or try to cling to something


– In general, baby armadillos are very fragile with sensitive skin and bones
– They can easily get hurt if dropped or restrained too tightly

While baby armadillos may seem cute, they do not make good pets and need expert care. It is illegal in most states to take baby armadillos from the wild. If you come across baby armadillos, do not pick them up. Avoid touching them unless you plan to take them to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for care. Enjoy them from a safe distance to avoid harming them or getting scratched.

Are Armadillos Aggressive Towards Humans?

No, armadillos are typically not aggressive towards humans at all. They are solitary, timid animals that prefer to avoid contact with people and other wildlife species.

Some key points about armadillos and aggression include:

– Armadillos will almost always flee or hide when they sense human presence.

– They do not view humans as prey or a food source.

– Most armadillo defensive behaviors like biting or scratching are reactions to being threatened or mishandled rather than natural aggression.

– Armadillos are not territorial over a defined area, so they have no need to be aggressive to drive away intruders.

– Male armadillos may become briefly aggressive with each other during the breeding season, but never towards humans.

– Mother armadillos can become defensive if their babies are threatened, but they remain non-aggressive towards humans otherwise.

– Baby armadillos do not demonstrate any natural predatory or aggressive tendencies, even towards small insects.

– No accounts exist of armadillos actively hunting, pursuing, or initiating unprovoked attacks on humans.

So while armadillos have defensive capabilities like biting and scratching, these are tools of last resort and not signs of innate aggression. Their biology and behavior simply does not lend itself towards outward aggression or territorial disputes. Avoid contact whenever possible, but rest assured armadillos pose little aggressive threat to humans.

Do Armadillos Attack When Threatened?

No, armadillos do not typically attack or become offensive when threatened. Rather than attacking, armadillos are more likely to take the following actions when threatened:

– Freeze in place: Armadillos may first freeze temporarily to assess threats before fleeing.

– Flee: Their most common reaction is to rapidly dig a hole or run away on their short, sturdy legs.

– Burrow underground: Armadillos are efficient diggers and can quickly burrow into soil to escape predators.

– Roll into an armored ball: The three-banded armadillo will roll into a complete ball leaving only its armored shell exposed.

– Make noise: Some armadillo species may grunt, squeal, or make a chattering sound with their teeth to try to startle threats.

– Bite: Biting is a defensive last resort limited to very close contact when they cannot escape.

– Claw with feet: Armadillos may attempt to scratch or claw if they cannot flee but do not actively attack.

– Closely watch the threat: Maintaining eye contact and facing the threat may be a delaying tactic before fleeing.

Overall, armadillos are not predator species and lack natural weapons like large teeth, venom, or immense strength that would enable them to attack large threats. Their behaviors when frightened aim more towards escape and self-protection rather than offensive attacks. Armadillos only bite or claw at very close range and as an absolute last line of defense.

How to Avoid Being Harmed by Armadillos

Here are some recommendations for avoiding harm from armadillos when spending time outdoors in armadillo habitats:

– Keep your distance and do not approach or try to touch wild armadillos. Observe from at least 50 feet away.

– Do not attempt to corner, pick up, or handle armadillos. This may provoke a defensive reaction.

– Prevent pet dogs from approaching, chasing, or attacking armadillos. Dogs can get scratched or bitten if harassing armadillos.

– Protect your living space by sealing any cracks or holes that could allow entry to armadillos. Eliminate garden insect pests that may attract armadillos.

– Wear thick boots and pants when hiking or gardening in armadillo areas to prevent scratches or bites to the legs and ankles.

– Use thick gloves or tools to remove dead armadillos; avoid bare hand contact to reduce disease risks.

– Cook all wild game meat, including armadillo, thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165°F to kill any potential parasites or bacteria.

– Clean and thoroughly disinfect any wounds from armadillo bites or scratches, then monitor for signs of infection.

– Ask your doctor about leprosy testing if you have regular contact with armadillos and develop any unusual skin lesions.

Exercising caution around armadillos can greatly reduce the minimal risks of being harmed. Give them space, never handle them, and see a doctor for any concerning injuries.

First Aid for Armadillo Bites, Scratches, and Disease Exposure

If you receive a bite, get scratched, or are possibly exposed to diseases like leprosy from an armadillo, here are some first aid tips while awaiting medical care:

For Bites:

– Wash the bite wound immediately with soap and warm water. Use an antiseptic if available.

– Apply pressure with clean gauze or a cloth to stop any bleeding.

– Bandage the wound with a sterile dressing and adhesive bandage.

– Apply antibiotic ointment to reduce infection risk.

– Monitor for worsening redness, swelling, pus, warmth, streaking, or fever which may indicate infection.

For Scratches:

– Clean scratch wounds right away with soap and warm water. Flush dirt or debris from the scratch.

– Control bleeding by applying direct pressure with a clean towel or gauze pad.

– Rinse the wound for 5 minutes with clean water. Pat dry with a clean cloth.

– Apply antibiotic ointment and cover with sterile gauze, a bandage, or adhesive bandage.

– Watch for infection signs like redness, swelling, increasing pain, pus, and warmth around the scratch.

For Disease Exposure:

– Immediately wash any skin that touched the armadillo with soap and warm water.

– Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer thoroughly on hands and anywhere else exposure occurred.

– Avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth before proper hand hygiene.

– Monitor yourself for fever or unusual symptoms during the weeks after exposure.

– See a doctor and mention the armadillo exposure. Get tested for leprosy and other diseases based on doctor’s analysis.

Proper wound care and hand hygiene after contact with armadillos can reduce the very low risks of complications or infections. Consulting a healthcare provider promptly is also recommended.

Are Armadillos Protected or Considered Pests?

Armadillos have a mixed reputation, considered both protected wildlife species and occasionally nuisance pests. Here is a summary of armadillos’ status:

Protected Species

– All 20 armadillo species are classified as “protected” under the Federal Endangered Species Act in the U.S.

– It is illegal to harm, harass, or kill armadillos without special permits.

– Armadillos are valued for their ecological roles including:

– Aerating soil with their digging

– Dispersing seeds and fungi

– Consuming harmful insects

Nuisance Pests

– Armadillos often come into conflict with humans when they damage lawns, gardens, and farms while foraging.

– They dig holes damaging landscapes, uproot plants, and feed on agricultural crops.

– Armadillos can destroy the foundations and structures of homes and buildings with their extensive burrowing.

– They are a reservoir and vector for several diseases communicable to humans and pets.

So armadillos are dually considered both a beneficial protected species and occasionally a pest depending on the situation. Lethal control methods are prohibited in most cases, but humane deterrents can be used to prevent nuisance armadillo activity on private property. Exclusion fencing and removing food attractants are effective long-term solutions.

Key Points and Summary

In summary, here are the key points to know about the potential for armadillos to hurt humans:

– Armadillos have low vision but a strong sense of smell. They can bite or claw if threatened, but prefer to run away or burrow.

– Sharp armadillo claws can scratch skin and cause minor to moderate wounds if handled. Bites pose a low infection risk.

– Various diseases like leprosy and Chagas disease can be transmitted by armadillos through close contact. Avoid bare hand contact.

– Eating undercooked armadillo meat can spread parasites and bacterial infections to humans. Cook thoroughly.

– Baby armadillos may accidentally scratch with undeveloped claws but are not intentionally aggressive.

– Armadillos are not predatory or naturally aggressive species. They attack only as an absolute last resort.

– Give wild armadillos space, never handle them, and use protective clothing and barriers when needed. Seek medical care for concerning wounds.

While armadillos can inflict harm under certain circumstances, the risk is relatively low compared to many other wildlife species. Use caution around armadillos, but do not be unnecessarily afraid in their presence.

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