Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Arkansas
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources


DeGregorio, B.A., C. Gale, E. Lassiter, A. Massey, C. Roberts, and J. Veon. 2021. Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasyrus novemcinctus) Activity Patterns are Influenced by Human Activity. Ecology and Evolution: 0-8

Abstract

As the human footprint upon the planet expands, wildlife seeking to avoid human contact are losing the option of altering their spatial distribution and instead are shifting their daily activity patterns to be active at different times than humans. In this study, we used game cameras to evaluate how human development and activity was related to the daily activity patterns of the nine-banded armadillo (Dasyrus novemcinctus) along an urban to rural gradient in Arkansas, USA during the winter of 2020-2021. We found that armadillos had substantial behavioral plasticity in regard to the timing of their activity patterns; >95% of armadillo activity was nocturnal at six of the study sites whereas between 30 and 60% of activity occurred during the day at 3 other sites. Distance to downtown Fayetteville (the nearest population center) and estimated ambient sound level (both indices of human activity) best explained the likelihood of diurnal armadillo activity with armadillos being most active during the day at quiet sites far from Fayetteville. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this activity shift may be in response to not only human activity but the presence of domestic dogs. Our results provide further evidence that human activity has subtle nonlethal impacts on even common, widespread wildlife species. Because armadillos have low body temperatures and basal metabolism, being active during cold winter nights likely has measurable fitness costs. Nature reserves near human population centers may not serve as safe harbors for wildlife as we intend, and managers should benefit from considering these nonlethal responses in how they manage recreation and visitation in these natural areas.