Sneaking Up On Armadillos

Nine banded armadillos have lived around this area of the Ozarks for years now. Some people hate them. I find them interesting and sneaking up on armadillos is challenging.

Lots of different kinds of armadillos live from Mexico southward. Only the nine banded moved north and may have had help. People seem to love moving animals and plants from one place to another.

Temperature limits where the armadillos can survive as they don’t put on body fat and can’t hibernate. They have to forage for grubs, earthworms and other soil creatures almost daily. In warm seasons they are out at night. Winter finds them out during the day.

Several armadillos live near the pastures. I spot one in the south pasture fairly often and begin my game of sneaking up on armadillos.

nine banded armadillo in pasture
Getting up close to an armadillo makes it possible to see how the thick, pebbly skin hangs down over the back legs. Tufts of hair stick out under the layers. The ears are always alert, but don’t seem very sensitive.

The wind must be right as armadillos have a good sense of smell. My scent must be blowing any other direction, but toward the armadillo.

Armadillos don’t see well and spend most of their time with their faces buried in leaf litter or grass. It’s still better to sneak up from behind. Standing still if they look for me sometimes works.

sneaking up on armadillos is challenging
Even though I am in front of this armadillo about 25 feet away, it continues to dig down under the grass seeking grubs and earthworms. This is just before the snow arrived and the armadillo looks well fed as the winter has been mild to this point.

Hearing is a toss up. Armadillos have prominent ears that swivel to catch any sounds. Still, I find I can make a fair bit of noise and not be noticed. I’m not very good at sneaking up quietly.

These creatures look like some prehistoric tank with their sheets of pebbly skin. The bands allow them to curl up when frightened and trapped. Otherwise they run and they are fast.

Sneaking up on armadillos sometimes backfires. I had one so busy looking for food it blundered into my feet. They do have long, strong claws and can do a lot of damage if grabbed. We both froze a moment. It took off for the woods.

sneaking up on armadillos is hard in dry leaves
Armadillos prefer the pastures as the grubs prefer them. During the winter grubs are harder to find and the armadillos come up into the woods to forage under the leaves for pupae, spiders and other insects hiding there. The leaves make a lot of noise both from the armadillo and from me.

That was the closest I’ve gotten. The best distance for taking pictures is five to ten feet.

Sneaking up on armadillos is fun for me. In late winter scaring them is cruel as they are gaunt and close to starving. I give them plenty of space and leave before they notice me.

Read and see some Ozark creatures in “Exploring the Ozark Hills“.