Armadillos are one of the strangest-looking mammals on the planet. They are most often seen as roadkill along Texas highways largely because they have poor eyesight and they move slowly, not a good combination for crossing a road.
They are residents of our little bit of Hill Country property, among countless other places in our adopted State and neighboring states. We have lived in Texas for almost a decade at this writing, and we can count the number of live Armadillo sightings on one hand. Nearly all of these sightings have been only a few yards from our front door as we head out on early morning walks, in that small window of time when it is light enough to walk before the sun comes up.
An armadillo like those around our house. (Photo credit)
I call your attention to the shape of the armadillo’s head above. The shape is basically a triangle culminating in its narrowest point with the tip of the nose and a long, narrow mouth that operates with the precision of a pair of needle-nose pliers.
Also note the short front legs. Imagine them extended forward under the armadillo’s head with those slightly curved claws reaching out just beyond the tip of the nose. That image conjures up a device that is just the opposite of a backhoe; it represents a “fronthoe” that has countless times left triangular or, more accurately, cone-shaped holes about nine inches deep all around our landscape.
The image of the hole conjures up yet another image of an armadillo buried head first in the ground up to her or his shoulders, with the rest of her or his body sticking up in the air at an angle that leaves the armadillo’s dagger-like tail wagging in the breeze as the digging goes on.
The reason for all this digging is to find food, of course. Their diet usually consists of insects—ants are a favorite, grub worms, scorpions, and sometimes berries and roots. While this digging is a bit disconcerting—especially when they dig up young native plants that I’m trying to get started in areas where we are removing lawn grass—this isn’t all bad when they eat our local ants and scorpions. Plus, I read that they also like to eat snake eggs.
Now, in all fairness, as I consider the cons of the digging and the pros of their diet choices, maybe these funny-looking creatures are our friends. I’m having a change of heart as I write this piece.
My wife Ellen, with the urging of some persuasive neighbors, applied a few years ago to the National Wildlife Federation to designate our property as a “Certified Wildlife Habitat.” A sign to that effect is nailed to a cedar tree along our driveway, letting wildlife know that they can enjoy a smorgasbord at our place anytime they like. We’re open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
What Was I Going to Say?
Why should I be upset by all this armadillo digging? They were here long before we were.
I started out to write this piece to complain about armadillos digging in our yard. Now that I’ve thought it through a bit more, considering the pros and cons through the magic of Internet searches, my position has shifted 180 degrees from what it was when I started writing this little story.
Considering the above mental meanderings, I guess I’ll have to thank these hot-digging armadillos for all the ants, scorpions, spiders, and snakes they keep out of our house. That’s a pretty nice bonus for the inconvenience of those cone-shaped holes that show up around here.
Quite unexpectedly, it feels good to know that our funny-looking armadillos are now my new friends. It feels good to make friends. The next time I meet one near our front door, I’ll smile and be nice to it by saying, “Dig it!”