North Carolina

Armadillos in the ocean? Video shows one, dog paddling off SC’s Edisto Island

Armadillos have officially joined rattlesnakes and bears on the growing list of oddities awaiting tourists on Carolinas beaches.

A video taken Sunday caught one of the ardently nocturnal creatures out in broad daylight, dog paddling in the Atlantic off Edisto Island, South Carolina.

Paleontologist Ashby Gale recorded the moment and says it defied logic.

“I looked out at what was a hard shell in the water, and I thought: ‘That’s no sea turtle and it’s no horseshoe crab’,” said Gale, who was giving a fossil hunting tour at the time. “As we got closer, we realized it was an armadillo. We were all kind of in disbelief.”

That disbelief is partly because armadillos don’t go out during the day, and they avoid the extreme temperatures commonly found on summer beaches.

His best guess is that the heavy rains that have plagued the coast might have washed the armadillo out of the forest and into the ocean.

Gale posted his video on the Facebook page of his Charleston Fossil Adventures program, where it has been viewed 28,000 times and shared more than 350 times.

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His video comes at a time when rattlesnakes and bears have been photographed on beaches in North and South Carolina. In one case, a rattlesnake was recorded slithering off the beach out into the ocean, with no apparent destination.

Armadillos are not native to the Carolinas, but have extended their range out of the southwest U.S., up through Florida along the coastline, according the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

Benjamin Powell, a natural resources agent with the Clemson Cooperative Extension, told the Charleston Post and Courier that armadillos aren’t suited to the ocean and could die from extended exposure to salt water.

Armadillos are famously good swimmers in streams and ponds, with an ability to hold their breath for up to six minutes, according to However, Gale believes the ocean may have been tougher to navigate than the armadillo anticipated.

“It did look worn out from swimming,” he said. “I think it was exhausted.”

A Good Samaritan on the beach Sunday made sure it didn’t drown. The armadillo was transported to dry land and herded to a nearby woods, Gale said.

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Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs