I saw my first nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) today in my yard. Well, not exactly my first, I use to have scads of them when I lived in Orlando and the nightly dog walks gave me plenty to view with the flashlight. Sadly, no photo of the new resident, so I’m using a photo of the predator.
While armadillos are not native to Florida, I knew some were around here as there are plenty of telltale signs in the form of tunnel openings, but I had yet to see one “in the flesh”. As with a lot of wildlife, in searching for information, I found a great deal offering removal to keep the lawn looking nice (AGGHHHHH!). I also found that if you trap one, because of its non-native status, it is illegal in Florida for a homeowner to transport and release it. Gotta leave it to the professionals if you are so inclined.
I suspected something was making a home under the Rubbermaid deck box out by the well pump. Then, last evening when I took Tanner, the English setter out for his last trip, he started pulling and jumping and spinning in the air focused on the area near the deck box. Not easy for a 10-year old couch potato. I managed to haul him back inside and suspected a rabbit, which often shoot past our path at night, thus the “dog on the leash after dark” regiment.
Just at dawn when it was light enough, I let Tanner out on his own without a lead since I could now see to keep an eye on him. I groped around for a coffee mug and poured some nice, hot, fresh-perked and vegetated on the couch while watching the news. Halfway through my coffee, I heard barking…constant barking. While most everyone in this neighborhood is an early riser, I don’t like my dogs barking at length, so I peered out the kitchen door and that’s when I saw Tanner at the deck box. Barking, digging, obviously after something.
He was halfway under the deck box and having no other option, I grabbed him by the tail and hauled him out since he was so frenzied that he didn’t hear a word I said. Once I had his head out, he sat and allowed me to put the lead on to return him, full of mud, to the kitchen.
The sedges and Spanish needles had grown up around the storage box providing a nice area to hide. The cutting line in the weedwacker ran out a while back and I was too lazy to deal with winding new line on the existing spool. My solution was to try to get close with the mower but, needless to say, not very effective to maintain tidiness. I headed out after breakfast to tend to my chore.
“Procrastination is the thief of time” Edward Young (1683-1765)
Well, the noise of the weedwacker stirred up Tanner’s friend. I heard scratching coming from what I thought was inside the box, so I carefully opened it but there was nothing other than a spider. With that, out from under the box came the largest armadillo I’ve ever seen. He was so huge that as he ran toward the backyard he got hung-up at the fence because he was too fat to squeeze through. I tried to take a photo, but as I turned on the camera, he finally found a bigger gap, and raced into the brambles of the backyard. I never realized that armadillos were so quick, I also didn’t realize they could weigh as much as 17 pounds.
At any rate, I finished up what I was doing and got the dogs out and about. Tanner immediately headed back to his digging area which I stood guard over, telling him his friend had moved. All the weedwacking filled in the tunnel entrance with grass clippings. After some playtime, the dogs and I headed back in the house for some much-needed rest.
A while later I went out in the yard sans dogs. I walked over to the deck box and, lo and behold, there was a freshly dug tunnel, back under the box. Apparently Mr. (Mrs.?) Armadillo likes their home in the dog area and returned when the danger had passed. Now, mind you, I have a half-acre of dog-free area to provide for the wildlife with some semblance of safety. How dumb are these critters that they chose the dogs’ domain?
It may be that the armadillo views it as prime habitat since the woodpile is adjacent and some of the favorite foods of this species are beetles, insect larvae, such as grubs and other invertebrates. I’m sure the woodpile is a smorgasbord in that area. They also eat beautyberry and my two beautyberry shrubs really are coming into their own this year.
Predators include humans, dogs, bobcats, coyotes, black bears, panthers, and foxes. I’m not sure Tanner is a match for this fatty and as I view the predator list, I wonder when the bobcats, foxes and panthers are going to show up. They have been observed in the neighborhood over at the Wildlife Management Area.
Apparently armadillo meat is a delicacy, but I’m not ready to cook this guy, although I think I saw Tanner with a skillet and his bowl.
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