Judged only by color, the small, snuffling creature making its way along the roadside east of Alamo Springs might have been taken for just another limestone rock. But rocks don’t have ears, or pointed snouts, and they certainly don’t dig into the dirt with the energy of a hyperactive toddler.
When the nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) is foraging, there isn’t much that distracts it, partly because of its poor eyesight. The animal relies on its ears and nose to detect food or predators, and it’s easier than you might think to walk up on one from behind. When it finally senses your presence, it often raises up on its haunches to evaluate the situation.
I was surprised that this one seemed content to keep foraging even after spotting me, rather than scurrying away into the brush. I was especially pleased to be able to see some of the hairs around its sides; they function much like whiskers on a cat, helping the poorly-sighted creature to find its way around.
For nearly twenty minutes it wandered the roadside, stopping occasionally to sniff or to dig.
Eventually, it stopped sniffing and crossed the road, moving so quickly I had a hard time keeping up.
All was well until it came to the fence. For nearly five minutes, it walked back and forth along the wire, stopping occasionally as though considering whether it would be worth digging its way to the other side.
Apparently, it decided digging would be too much trouble. In a flash, the athletic armadillo jumped straight into the air, propelling itself onto the fence wire.
Then, as gracefully as you please, it pushed off the wire and landed on the ground.
With what might have been a grin of self-satisfaction on its face, it trotted down the fence line until it came to a patch of clean, soft dirt.
Claws flying, it began creating and enlarging a hole until, finally, it slipped beneath the fence, and out of sight.
It seemed our beloved Texas icon — the state’s official small mammal and well-known Muse — had arrived safely at home, just like Gary P. Nunn at the end of his London trip. Whether it celebrated by writing a song, I can’t say.
“London Homesick Blues” aka “Home With the Armadillo”
Comments always are welcome.
For some interesting Texas armadillo history, visit “Armadillo Whispers” at The Task at Hand.