Sam likes to see how high the water is down at the spillway, if it has any “color,” and who’s fishing — so we took a drive.
That day there were two bank-walkers. One was down on the point. We thought he got a bite then realized he was hung up in the brush. The other guy brought in a fish, then packed up his gear and headed in. It was cold and fairly late in the day.
Up the hill was an armadillo foraging in the dead grass. We stopped and watched for a few minutes. Armadillos have small eyes and don’t see well. Supposedly they make up for it with their hearing, but this one was intent on digging. Looking at the armor that encased him I wondered if he had any predators. The only thing I came up with was speeding cars and .22s.
There’s 20 armadillo species, only one in the U.S. The sizes range from 6 inches, called the pink fairy armadillo, up to 5 feet. Lordy, I’m glad we don’t have 5-footers; alligators are bad enough.
Our species is called the nine-banded armadillo and is about the size of a possum. While some species are on the threatened list, ours is ever-expanding, even though they only have one litter a year and usually four identical young from the same egg. I find that a little confusing since obviously some are females and some are males, but “identical” is what the information said.
Armadillos have a low metabolic rate and low fat content so they don’t like cold. In summer they forage at night. Sometimes I hear them outside the house. In winter, like the one at the spillway, they forage during daylight hours. Mostly they eat bugs like beetles, termites and ants. An armadillo can eat 40,000 ants in one meal. I can appreciate that. Armadillos have large, sharp claws and can ferret out ants and hold them with their sticky tongues. They eat some small critters like mice, snakes, some plants and fruit and occasionally dead things.
The creature’s home is a burrow. Out here in the Prairie they like to burrow under buildings and can cause a lot of damage. We don’t worry too much about them except the time one dug up the grass Sam planted on a bare hill. One night I discovered the beast digging in the new grass so I fired the .22 at him. It was too dark for the scope so I put the sight on him. The armadillo squealed, jumped straight up in the air, then plunged into the lake.
Armadillos are fast runners and good swimmers. They can hold their breath for six whole minutes.
“Little armored one,” that’s what armadillo means in Spanish. Armadillos are eaten in most Latin American countries. The meat is described like “fine-grained, high quality pork.”
During the Great Depression folks ate armadillos; they called them “Hoover hogs.” Our friend Jim, also a chef, asked, “What’d they use to crack their shell, posthole diggers?”