Date of Award
Master of Science
Originally endemic to South America, the nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) has recently expanded its range northward to Illinois. With this range expansion comes concern from both wildlife managers and the general public regarding potential incoming pathogens and unknown impacts on native wildlife. My research, conducted during 2018-2020 in southern Illinois, addressed the following 3 objectives intended to provide information regarding this novel species: (1) test for the presence of Trypanosoma cruzi and Mycobacterium leprae, (2) model the potential distribution of armadillos, and (3) attempt several different armadillo capture methods. For Objective 1, I tested roadkilled specimens for T. cruzi and M. leprae, 2 pathogens known to infect humans, using PCR and ELISA, respectively. All 81 samples tested for T. cruzi and all 25 samples tested for M. leprae were negative. The latter case is consistent with the enemy release hypothesis, suggesting armadillos have evaded parasites present in their native environment due to geographical distance. The absence of T. cruzi in the sampled individuals implies dispersing individuals are more robust than those at the center of their range. For Objective 2, I used MAXENT to model potential armadillo distribution in 51 counties in southern Illinois using 39 presence locations. Modeling identified low-intensity development to be the most important predictor of armadillo presence. For Objective 3, I attempted to capture armadillos using spotlighting on roads, staking out burrows, unbaited single-door cage traps, and unbaited double-door cage traps. Based on trap nights per capture, I found the use of double-door cage traps to be the most efficient method. My study will aid in managing colonizing armadillo populations by presenting information regarding dynamics of disease transmission, predicting areas of armadillo presence, and capture methods.
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