For those of you who don’t live around these parts, armadillos look like little armored anteaters, with longish snouts and rounded ears, and a little bitty tail protruding out of a shell. I am not sure how they got into the states; I think they just came up from Mexico perhaps. They are thriving here, surely, and have moved out of Texas into the rest of the southern states. There are three problems with armadillos. First, they are known to carry leprosy, but as most people don’t cuddle armadillos, that’s not often a problem. Second, they dig. This is perhaps the biggest complaint, as they love to dig holes in gardens and lawns in search of worms and other tasty treats. Third, they hop. This almost guarantees that they become roadkill en masse on southern roads and highways. This is because, when you see one in the road, if you can manage to steer your wheels to miss the armadillo and pass over it, the little fool will give a startled hop and smash itself into the undercarriage of your car.When I was in residency, my program director despised armadillos. You couldn’t even bring them up. They destroyed his lawn and garden, and he would spend nights on his porch, gun and drink in hand, blasting armadillos when he saw them. I had a pair of armadillo earrings I liked to wear just to get under his skin, since he was patently incapable of remembering the names of any of the female residents. He took the guys fishing. This irritated me; he irritated me; it seemed only fair that I should irritate him. I think he wanted to shoot me when he saw them.
When I was an Ob/Gyn in Atlanta, I had a patient who had an injury by armadillo. These are fairly gentle animals, so I had to question her how on earth she had come to fall on her pregnant belly because of an armadillo. She explained that she had been in her garden and she had startled one and it hopped at her (remember the armadillo/hop reflex). She mistook the hopping for an act of aggression and retreated from it shrieking, tripping over a low row of shrubbery in the process. We had to check out the baby and make sure it hadn’t been hurt by her armadillo-induced belly flop. The baby was fine, and for the rest of her pregnancy, I referred to her as “armadillo girl”. She at least had a sense of humor about it.
My folks have an armadillo problem. Like most everyone else, the armadillos dig holes in their lawn and plants. Mom was told by someone she knew (I kid you not) that the best way to trap an armadillo was to bait a Have A Heart trap with Juicy Fruit gum. They swore armadillos loved this substance above all others. So mom bought and baited the trap, and woke up in the morning to… a raccoon. The coon had been attracted to the gum and got caught in the trap. Now the problem was, the raccoon had to come out of the trap. Those of you who live in the city may not realize this, but raccoons are incredibly vicious fighters and can be very dangerous when cornered. My dad had to find a pair of leather gauntlets just to open the trap. The raccoon caterwauled and hissed the entire time, and Mom and my daughter retreated in fear. They finally got the thing out of the trap and the coon beat it for the hills.
When I was visiting the folks for Thanksgiving this year, I saw Mom out in the backyard, doing this incredibly slow, gingerly dance out in the back yard. She looked like she was practicing some form of insane foxtrot. I went out in the backyard and asked what strange dance she was doing. “I’m replacing armadillo divots,” she explained. We laughed and laughed at Mom’s armadillo foxtrot, but she is still incredibly put out that the armadillos are tearing up her yard.
Those little suckers are real pests. I don’t think they’re getting eradicated any time soon – they like it too much here. I have to giggle when I see an armadillo though. I have way too much history with them just to pass them by. I’m just waiting for the next exciting armadillo event.