Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local Columnists

August 8, 2009

Bill Starr: Armadillos

I was out of town recently and I came home to a yard that had been completely destroyed by what I believed to be a raging herd of angry rhinos. Well imagine my surprise when I realized the damage wasn’t caused by raging rhinos but rather a more dangerous creature: the armadilllo!

Armadillo! Just the mention of the name causes most people to cringe in anguish. If you want to start a conversation with someone you don’t know in South Georgia, just utter a phrase like “what do you think about them armadillos?” I can just about guarantee that if they haven’t had a personal experience with these critters they know someone who has. Our office receives numerous calls about controlling these very unusual creatures. So how do you know if you have an armadillo problem? You know you have an armadillo problem when you are willing to run out of your house in your underwear at 2 a.m. in hopes of catching the crafty critter. You know you have an armadillo problem when your lawn of flowerbed looks like a miniature version of a bombing test site! You know you have an armadillo problem when your days are spent thinking of ways to cash in on our over-abundance of this sometime nuisance. For example, if you think that small stuffed armadillos would make an attractive pair of earrings, or possibly a nice ash tray, then you definitely have an armadillo problem. Can you imagine the demand for this critter if armadillo ball would catch on across the nation? For those of you that don’t know, armadillo ball is a game very similar to football, only it is played with a dry-stuffed armadillo.

So, what really is an armadillo and what makes them tick? Armadillos are a unique group of animals that originated in South America. The armadillo is neither a rodent nor a marsupial, and no, they aren’t possums in the half-shell. Armadillos have shells made of true bone that cover their backs. Because their backs are covered with bone, armadillos are not very flexible. They rely on speed or their digging ability to escape danger. I am going to tell you a secret I bet you don’t know: armadillos are built to dig. They have short, strong legs that are well suited to rapid digging, either for food or shelter. Armadillos prefer to eat various insects, especially beetles and grubs. This explains why they dig up your lawn or flowerbed.

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