Friday, August 29, 2008

Armadillos This Far North

Armadillos are tropical mammals (that's right, mammals!), but they've been in southern Missouri for several years, working their way up Interstate 44. Three years ago I saw an armadillo on Highway FF. Told the feed-store owner's son, and he said he'd seen one in the area also, but nobody had believed him. Finally, today, one turns up as road kill right where Highway FF meets F. I apologize for such a sad photo. It's just proof that armadillos do come right up to the northern edge of their range when they want something. (This is latitude 38 degrees 25 minutes North.) This one might well have been drinking from the creek. They need a lot of water. My 1946 Webster's unabridged dictionary states flatly, "Their flesh is good food."

To protect themselves, armadillos will roll up into an ball. But when startled by oncoming cars, they jump -- vertically -- which is almost always fatal. This one had a laceration along its back and down the side. Close-up, it's an almost Martian creature: blend of pig, tank and turtle, with an opossum's face and a rat's tail. But unfortunately, it's very slow.

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