Nine-banded Armadillo

The Spanish conquistadores first encountered this strange creature and named it the "little man in armor." It spends most waking hours digging for food and building burrows, grunting almost constantly. The Nine-banded Armadillo does not hibernate and cannot survive prolonged below-freezing weather. It goes about its business with a steady, stiff-legged jog, but when approached, escapes by running away or rolling into a ball to protect its vulnerable belly.

The armadillo's lizardlike skin and bony-plated shell look like the perfect defense against predators. Although on rare occasions the animal may curl into a ball when attacked, it is more likely to protect itself by quickly digging a hole or fleeing into its burrow. The burrow is a multichambered tunnel where the females give birth, always to quadruplets that are always of the same sex. Close relatives of anteaters and sloths, armadillos are extending their range. Southeastern United States where in recent years it has rapidly expanded its range: most of Florida and parts of Georgia west to SE: Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

A wild armadillo busily grubbing for insects steadfastly ignores human observers. Let a dog crash onto the scene, however, and the "dillo" may explode three feet into the air like a toy snake from a can before running for its life, zigzagging to dodge its pursuer. Finally, it scoots into one of the many burrows veining its territoty, or stops to dig a new one, pelting the dog with dirt. Wedghed firmly into its tunnel, the armadillo endures the frustrated dog's attempts to grasp its slippery hide and yank it back out.

Nine-banded Armadillo

Although clad in armor, the armadillo is far from invincible. Its bony carapace does enable the armadillo to thwart predators by darting into thick, prickly brush patches, but it's not tough enough to withstand the crushing fangs of a cougar or coyote. Even its pogo-stick leap is of no avail against its modern-day killer: the car. After avoiding car's wheels, a startled armadillo will often leap up and strike the undercarriage. This species is abundant in its range.

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