The ten-day “drought” finally broke last Sunday. There was a light rain (less than 1/2 inch) in the evening. Since then I’ve gotten at least another 6 inches – spread over three storms. Hereabouts, the average total rainfall for August is 8 inches. I’d say we’re on track.
Yesterday evening (late afternoon to some of you) it was so wet and cloudy that an armadillo became confused. Normally they’re nocturnal but this one came out foraging a little early. I took several pictures but I think my camera automatically focused on the rain. They’re all blurry (the photo to the right is by Jerry Segraves). I walked out in the yard to take a closer look, speaking aloud the whole time. The armadillo was completely oblivious and didn’t notice me until I was about 4 feet away. Then he (or she—how can you tell?) jumped straight up in the air, spun around, and ran off to hide. They’re a lot faster than you might think.
Armadillos are not Florida natives so they may be killed with impunity. Or with a big stick. Warning: snowbirds, though not native, are a protected species – so don’t even think about it! I was thinking about this (armadillos, not snowbirds) as I watched it rooting around next to my garden. Would it eat my veggies? Time for a little research. Here’s the University of Florida extension service website. Armadillos mostly eat insects with an occasional side dish of berries or mushrooms. Their nuisance value lies in their digging – both for access to said insects and to make their burrows. Since this one wasn’t bothering my garden I decided to live and let live.
Should I decide to get rid of my not-so-furry friend, UF lists four methods of control. Three of these methods are allotted one paragraph apiece while the other gets five paragraphs and an illustration. We’ll come back to that.
Here are my options:
I can make my yard/garden less attractive by making it drier and less fertile. That’s out.
A fence will make sure it stays in the neighbor’s yard. But my yard is fenced! Oh, that’s right, armadillos are burrowing animals. The fence has to go at least 18 inches below ground. That sounds like work – more than I have time for.
The last option listed is shooting (where legal). They recommend a shotgun – number four birdshot minimum, BB shot maximum – or a small-caliber rifle. Hmm.
The option to which they give the most space is live trapping. They list several different methods. Then they mention that it is illegal and environmentally unsound to transport or release armadillos. So, once you’ve live trapped it, you should kill it. The web site never comes right out and says this, of course.
Here’s a few more fun facts about armadillos. Yes, they can carry leprosy. But if you live in Florida don’t worry. There’s never been a case here (of 2500 animals tested). There’s also never been a known case of rabies among armadillos in Florida. In fact, “compared to other common mammals such as raccoon and opossum, armadillos are remarkably free of parasites.”
UF’s website also mentions that they are edible, “with proper preparation.” Not surprisingly, they fail to specify the proper preparation method. Cooking? Note that armadillo meat has only 26% of its calories from fat as opposed to rabbit or chicken breast, both 37%. As a survival food, that’s not ideal. Better stock up on lard or beef tallow to cook it in.
Not that I plan on bothering “my” armadillo. He can join the moles and ibises in keeping down the insect population.