Thursday, February 1, 2018

Nine-Banded Armadillo

I recently saw my first armadillo in the wild. 
I was in Gainesville, Florida, on the La Chua Trail in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. A family was walking by me in the opposite direction and the father said to his daughter, "look, there's an armadillo." They took a few steps to a nearby chain-link fence and I followed, looking between them. There, with its little head in constant motion nosing in the dirt and leaf-filled detritus on the ground, was this amazing prehistoric looking armored animal. The family quickly left, but I watched entranced for about 20 minutes and during that entire time it never really stopped. And with my camera ready, dodging tree limbs, rocks, logs, vines and other visual barriers to a good picture, as well as the uncooperative photo subject that would never get its head up from its subterranean conquest, I couldn't get a good picture.  
Armadillo means "little armored one" in Spanish. There are 21 species of armadillo, but only one in the U.S., the nine-banded armadillo, the most wide-spread of all armadillos. It originated in South America, but crossed the Rio Grande into Texas in the later 19th century and has been spreading through the U.S., primarily in the South. 
The armadillo has poor hearing and eyesight, but a keen sense of smell for rooting in the ground and feeding on insects, larvae, spiders, snails and earthworms. 

While in Florida I saw two more armadillos. One was on Merritt Island in Canaveral National Seashore, right next door to where the astronauts take off into space. It was off the side of the road rooting through grass. There were fewer obstructions to viewing this armadillo, but still, nose constantly in the ground, it was hard to get a good photo. 

The last armadillo I saw was in Circle Bar B Reserve, a restored marsh system maintained by Polk County near Winter Haven. As I was parking my car it was on the edge of the grass parking lot. I got out of my car and got a couple of quick photos before I scared it into the underbrush where it quickly disappeared. 

1 comment:

  1. I love the scales on their armor. The patterns are really beautiful. That second to last picture is very good.