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Published on: Mar. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 26, 2010

the first armadillo to live here. A similar but larger armadillo lived in what is now Missouri during the Pleistocene (a geologic epoch). It disappeared at the end of the last ice age.

Armadillos have inspired curiosity in people first meeting the "little armored one" and frustration in those dealing with the "little lawn-and-garden tiller." It can smell beetles, larvae and ants six inches underground, and it spends its waking hours eating them. It digs, pushes its nose into loosened soil, shoots out its sticky tongue to collect a meal and immediately digs another hole. Since its tongue is not selective, the feast includes an occasional earthworm, snake or skink, as well as rocks and earth. The armadillo's scat, understandably, resembles clay marbles.

If you're facing torn-up turf, it's small consolation the nine-banded trundled into Missouri and not the 130-pound giant armadillo, whose longest claws measure seven inches.

Ernie Bohner copes with a few armadillos at Persimmon Hill Farm in Stone County where he grows blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. Digging in mulch, the armadillos damage plant roots. "You fill it in, and they come and do it again, right in the same area," says Bohner, who has live-trapped and relocated several. Lacking appropriate bait, he wedges boards in a V shape at the trap's entrance and herds the animal in.

"They're a hoot to try to catch," he says good-naturedly. "For one thing, they're pretty darn fast. They jump across the ground instead of running. The thing that's hilarious is they'll forget they're being chased and they'll stop. You run up and try to capture them, and they'll remember again and run another 50 yards."

A struggling armadillo's claws can inflict damage, so a long-handled net is useful if capture is necessary. Cornered, the armadillo curls up in a semi protected ball. Due to its response to surprise, its most formidable (but accidental) predator is the automobile - jumping straight up is not an ideal strategy.

If your lawn hasn't been excavated, you might view armadillos with amusement and wonder. On a food plot at Drury-Mincy, an armadillo in the distance looks like an army helmet moseying along. Nose down and crowned with a crescent gleam of sunlight, it makes a

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