The National Park Service says it is keeping its eyes on an invasive species that could threaten an East Tennessee attraction.
Armadillos have been steadily migrating north from states like Georgia and Alabama in recent years. The animal, which prefers warmer weather, has been able to adapt to East Tennessee's cooler climate.
So far, the creature has been spotted in Morgan and Scott Counties around the Big South Fork. But, park rangers worry it is bound for the Obed Wild and Scenic River near Wartburg too.
"They may compete with other ground feeding creatures like skunks and turtles," said Obed Chief Ranger Matt Hudson. "They may eat some of those special things that we're so proud that we have."
On top of that, there is also concern armadillos could tear up the park's soil, making it harder for certain plants to grow.
So far, the animal has not been discovered in the park, but Hudson said it's only a matter of time before it makes an introduction. Saturday, rangers held an informative "hunt" where they talked to visitors about what the armadillo might do to the area.
"That's a good platform to talk about armadillos and other invasive species," Hudson said.
As of right now, Hudson said he wasn't sure if there was any one way NPS could stop armadillos from entering the Obed. However, he said the park plans to look at different methods used to control the animal's spread elsewhere in the country.
Hudson also pointed out armadillos might not make a permanent stay in East Tennessee. He said a cold winter could easily stunt their spread.