Monday, July 19, 2010

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road, Part II

By Johnny Beall - Conclusion to the Essay Posted July 12

Armadillos are armored creatures that have little fear of most predators because, when threatened, they roll into a ball, exposing only their very tough outer shell to attack. The mouths of most predators are too small to get their teeth in position to bite this tough ball and are unsuccessful in their attack. Therefore the armadillo has not developed a strong flight instinct such as soft-bodied animals like rabbits have developed. And, when the huge noisy predator with the bright, shining eyes, comes racing in, they fail to remove themselves from harm’s way, trusting that their armor will protect them.

The other defect in the armadillo’s nature is its second defensive tactic when confronted with an enemy. It jumps about two or three feet straight up into the air. This tactic may work against a dog or other animal but against an 18-wheeler, which would otherwise pass right over the armadillo and not harm it due to high clearance, leads to road pizza when the armadillo jumps.

First recorded in Texas in 1849, the armadillo expanded its range northward and eastward, at times aided by pranksters and animal dealers. In Florida, releases from a zoo in 1924 and a circus truck in 1936 started another migrating population. Now the northern edge of armadillo territory runs through Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. Thought this expansion has taken almost 150 years, that’s fast for the mammal that has been chosen the State Small Mammal of Texas.

Brenda Loveless, a winner in the 2010 Refuge Photo Contest, sent the photo shown above, and says, “I was so excited back in May to finally see two live 'dillers’ very close to a little access road near Lake Bardwell (close to Ennis)”. Thanks to Johnny and to Brenda for the saga of the ‘dillo, Part II.

Armadillos are among the array of mammals to be seen at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, including deer, bobcats, coyotes, feral hogs and more. For the official Refuge website, see and for information about the Friends of Hagerman, programs and events, see

1 comment:

  1. I've seen many dillos over the years, but never have I seen one jump. I know they are much taller than drivers might think and I expect they might have to do a little trick to get balled-up, but I think I need to see the video of one jumping.