On the 3rd day of our Christmas (get away from the Kansas winter) vacation, we paid a visit to the Holla Bend National Wildlife refuge in Arkansas. We were hoping to see bald eagles, geese, and trumpeter swans, but all of these eluded us. But we did see plenty of armadillos foraging alongside the roads throughout the refuge. In northeast Kansas where we live, we’ve never seen them. And we’d only ever seen them as roadkill in more southern parts of Kansas and Oklahoma, so we were excited to watch live ones. Used to stalking easily-spooked wild animals, we at first stopped the truck and took pictures from inside whispering to each other cautiously.

But we soon realized that the armadillos didn’t notice us. So we got out of the truck, and tip-toed towards them. They still didn’t realize we were there. Finally on our 5th armadillo I casually walked to within 3 feet of the foraging armored tank and stood there clicking away, completly unnoticed.

Seems that even though their ears are pretty big, they don’t hear too well. I think it has something to do with all the racket they make pushing grass and leaves around and all the snuffling around with their noses. And they have really teeny tiny eyes, and whether they can see well or not, it doesn’t seem to matter because most of the time their heads are buried in the foliage. And this created a problem for us. The biggest challenge when photographing wildlife is to get close enough to get a good shot, but here I was standing within a few feet of my subject, and all I was getting was lots of pictures of headless armadillos.

They spend the bulk of their time foraging and rummaging and snuffling and digging, revealing their heads for only a microsecond before stuffing their heads in again for more digging.

While we’re waiting for Mr. Armadillo to come up for air, here are a few quick facts:

  • They look like reptiles, but are in fact mammals.
  • The only species in the United States is the nine-banded armadillo, found most commonly in the southern central states. But they’ve been moving steadily north over the last century due to a lack of predators, and have been seen as far north as Nebraska.
  • Their diet consists mainly of insects, grubs, and other invertebrates.
  • Their armor plating is made of horn-covered bone. Their underside is not plated, but covered with soft fur.
  • Their main defense is their armor, but they can also run away from an enemy. The nine-banded armadillo jumps straight up into the air when startled, a habit that unfortunately does not serve them or the underside of passing vehicles well.
  • They can hold their breath underwater for as long as 6 minutes.
  • Females give birth to from 1 to 8 young. When born, the babies have soft leathery skin, but it hardens within a few weeks into armor.

Ah, patience and perserverance finally paid off.

There you are! And you’re kinda cute.

Oh my….well, um….I’m sure your mother thought you were cute.

I realize now that this is probably your best view.


——>UP NEXT: Melrose Estate, an 1840s mansion in Natchez, Mississippi. Come along for the tour and see the splendor of the antebellum era.

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