Armadillo in the Smokies? Scientists explain its appearance

GSMNP, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Scientists gathered together at the Discover Life in America event held in Gatlinburg to learn and discuss the impact of climate change on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

One of those scientists is PhD candidate Kendall Beals. She researches the impact of wildfires on plants and soil in the area. She says changes "certainly has to do with the amount of fossil fuels that we are putting into the environment."

Another scientist, Dr. Jitu Kumar, works with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He uses a special tool called a lidar to learn which plans thrive and which don't in a warming Smokies climate.

"We have had a fairly mild winter like this year. So if you have mild winter, all those insects actually make it through the next year. So it's increasing. And that's killing these stands of hemlocks," he said.

It's not only the earth and plants that could be impacted, animals are affected, too.

Researcher Paul Super said animals like black bears are normal, but Tennessee recently got a new critter--the armadillo.

"I believe last year or the year before, we had our first confirmed record of an armadillo in the park. That was certainly not something that we were really expecting," Super said.

"But it may become a more common occurrence with the lower elevations of the park as they dry out and warm up," he continued.