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An armadillo standing in a field.

Spotted: First Armadillo in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The first-ever armadillo in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been spotted! While there have been armadillo sightings in the area before, this is the first armadillo to be documented within the park’s boundaries. We’ve got all the details on the armadillo sighting and what you can expect with armadillos in the Smoky Mountains:

Camera Captures Armadillo in Smoky Mountains

nine banded armadillo in fieldA live armadillo was spotted in the Smoky Mountains! This is the first documented, live armadillo in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A wildlife camera at Newfound Gap captured a few photos of a nine-banded armadillo. This means the Great Smoky Mountains National Park can add a new animal to their official species list! While there have been sightings of roadkill just outside of the park boundary throughout the last few years, there’s never been an armadillo within the interior of the park.

History of Armadillos in Tennessee

Armadillos were first spotted residing in Tennessee in 2013. They were located near Sewanee on the Plateau, which surprised scientists, who assumed any armadillo expansion would avoid cold temperatures found at higher elevations. Tim Gaudin, a biology professor at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, has been tracking the armadillo expansion into Tennessee. He said he received a report last year from someone in Maggie Valley in North Carolina about an armadillo in their backyard. This makes the sighting of the armadillo in the Smoky Mountains surprising because Newfound Gap is a significant climb compared to the 3,000 feet elevation of Maggie Valley.

Close-up of an armadillo.In 2018, several sightings of armadillos were made around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so experts predicted they’d make their way into the park eventually. If you happen to spot an armadillo when you’re in the Smoky Mountains, be sure to reach out to Tim Gaudin at timothy-gaudin@utc.edu. He loves getting help from the public tracking the armadillos in the Smoky Mountains!

To learn more about the history of armadillos in the Smoky Mountains, read our blog, “Armadillos Are Spreading in the Smoky Mountains.”

Safety Around Armadillos in the Smoky Mountains

Like all Smoky Mountain wildlife, there are safety precautions to keep in mind if you spot an armadillo. You should avoid coming in contact with armadillos if possible due to the risk of disease. Armadillos are one of the only mammals that can carry leprosy, and although there have been no cases of people contracting leprosy from armadillos in Tennessee, you want to avoid coming in contact with one.

More Wildlife in the Smoky Mountains

black bear in the smoky mountainsThe Smoky Mountains are home to diverse wildlife species, from mammals, to birds, to reptiles and amphibians! You have the chance to spot all of the above when you visit the Smokies. Including the newly spotted armadillo, more than 65 mammal species live in the park. There are also more than 200 varieties of birds, 67 native fish species, and more than 80 types of reptiles and amphibians. Here are some of the most popular kinds of wildlife spotted in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

Black Bears – There is an estimate of 1,500 bears that live in the park! Bear sightings are becoming more common, so don’t be surprised if you see one on your vacation. The most common place to spot a bear is Cades Cove, but you have the chance to see them anywhere throughout the Smokies. They’re more commonly seen in the early mornings and late evenings during cooler temperatures and when there are less crowds.

White-tailed Deer – Cades Cove is another great place to spot white-tailed deer! During early morning and late evenings, it’s common to spot them in the open fields. They’re also known to graze right after a rain and on foggy afternoons.

groundhog in an open fieldWoodchucks – Woodchucks are one of the most commonly seen animals in the national park. They can often be spotted in the open meadowlands and along roadsides at lower elevations.

Birds – There are more than 200 species of birds that are commonly sighted in the Smoky Mountains! The number of birds and the diversity of the species changes throughout the seasons, but some species you might see include the Eastern Screech Owl, Carolina Wren, American Goldfinch, and Downy Woodpecker.

If you’re hoping to do some wildlife viewing, the Smoky Mountains is the best place to be! Check out our guide for where and when to spot Smoky Mountain wildlife and start planning your visit.