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Pesky armadillos popping up in Missouri and ambling towards KC

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A creature usually only seen in areas south of the metro is scurrying into our area, bringing an ancient disease and pesky problems with it. So Fox 4 found out what to do if you meet an armadillo on the road, in your backyard, or on your dinner plate.

They're scaly, hairy, and overall look like a prop from a Jurassic Park movie.

But armadillos, especially in Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, are very much alive and thriving. Now, they're moving toward Kansas City.

"As we have these changes over the weather over time, this period of changes, they're starting to move further north," said Jeremy Soucy from the Missouri Department of Conservation.

About five years ago, Soucy says armadillos started moving into Missouri, even as far north as Kansas City.

"You just didn't see that many of them, and then you see one here, two there, and recently they're just everywhere," Soucy explained.

Luckily, he says they're more of a nuisance than anything seriously dangerous. These nocturnal animals are only awake for a few hours each night. They have big claws for digging, a long snout and only a few teeth for chewing grubs, worms, and other insects.

Plus they're more afraid of you than you are of them.

"They don't have great senses, they'll actually almost walk up to you and not even notice that you're there," Soucy said. "Their defense is to jump straight in the air."

So what's the big deal?

Well, they can be a pest. They have a tendency to dig in people's yards and gardens looking for food, but like other pests, you can get rid of them by humanely killing them or trapping them. But, they also carry leprosy.

Yes, we're talking about that leprosy.

"You have to eat raw meat from them. So I think you're going to be totally okay," said Soucy.

There are a variety of recipes out there, though, for your armadillo dining pleasure: casserole, meatballs, even tacos.

Just make sure the meat's thoroughly cooked!