NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The armadillo is becoming a familiar face in Tennessee. NewsChannel 5 takes a closer look at the armored animal, housed at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere.
The three-banded armadillos featured at the zoo are smaller than the nine-banded armadillos residents are seeing around Nashville.
"These guys are actually from South America so they are relatives to what you see in Tennessee," said Erin Gray, the animal ambassador at the Nashville Zoo.
Unfortunately, many residents only see armadillos on the side of the road, victims of a survival instinct that isn't terribly effective.
"They actually jump up into the bumper of oncoming cars before they can actually make their getaway," she said.
So what about the rumors of these guys carrying disease, like leprosy?
"It's not really that big of a deal. I'm not saying that just because I love them, but you'd really have to go to a big extreme to actually contract leprosy for these guys. [Zookeepers] handle them every day. As long as you're sanitary about it and wash your hands," she said.
Gray said the good, like these guys being natural insecticides, outweighs the bad.
So why are they showing up in Tennessee, so far away from Texas, New Mexico and Central America?
"We are seeing them more and more here in the southeast mainly because our climate is changing, matching Texas," she said.
So besides burrowing in yards and jumping in front of cars, these guys are just another Nashville novelty.
"And it's going to take a long period of time for them to make any detrimental impact on the environment," said Gray.