RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Wildlife researchers are asking people to keep their eyes open for armadillos.
Over the last 16 years, researchers have spotted the nine-banded armadillo in 70 North Carolina counties, including Wake and Durham counties.
That species is native to Central and South America and has expanded its range into the southeastern United States. The first confirmed sighting in North Carolina was in Macon County in 2007.
According to the Wildlife Commission, armadillos lack thick insulation and must dig for most of the things they eat. Mild winter temperatures are ideal for armadillos because freezing conditions can lead to starvation or death.
Due to the mild weather in North Carolina researchers said armadillos are expanding northward.
"Whether armadillos continue spreading beyond their current range will be largely determined by climate," according to Colleen Olfenbuttel, the Commission's black bear and furbearer biologist. "The number of counties with confirmed observations is 28, stretching from Cherokee to Dare counties. This makes it likely the armadillo is expanding its range naturally throughout North Carolina, rather than being helped by human intervention."
If you see an armadillo, you're asked to upload photos through the I-Naturalist app or by emailing email@example.com to help the NC Wildlife Commission keep track of the species' whereabouts in the state.
To learn more about armadillos click here.