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Tracking down a pest with leathery armor


Several weeks ago I noticed numerous shallow holes and bare spots in my front and side yards. At first glance it appeared that a golfer had been practicing chip shots in the yard and forgot to replace the divots.

A night or two later I spotted a large armadillo sashaying across the front yard. That explained the bare spots.

Shucks, I grew up in a rural environment surrounded by animals. Surely, I could eradicate an armadillo and end the yard damage.

Readers may remember in mid-2011 I managed to outthink a large raccoon that was raiding the 96-gallon trash container at our home for midnight snacks.

I placed rubber cords across the container’s lid. No more break-ins were discovered. The thief with the black mask had been defeated. Three raccoons returned a few weeks later, but failed to open the trash can.

Armadillos, like raccoons, are a nocturnal carnivore. However, they are not among the cuddly creatures found in petting zoos. Researchers offered a reason to avoid contact with the armored animals — they are a source of leprosy infections in humans.

Armadillos are frequently utilized as food in parts of Texas. The meat is considered by some the equal of pork in flavor and texture. That is enough reason to hold some Texans in low esteem.

Since my exposure to armadillos has been limited to counting the road kill on Arkansas highways, a bit of research was necessary to plan my assault on the yard visitor.

One game warden suggested I simply take a pistol or rifle and shoot the varmint. I have many nice neighbors who would not appreciate a bullet hitting their home about midnight should I miss the prowler.

A former Army Ranger suggested using a sniper rifle that “paints” the target with a laser beam. In theory, the red spot on the target marks where the bullet will hit. My neighbors will be happy to hear that I don’t have access to a sniper rifle.

I did manage to borrow a metal trap after asking a number of hunters how they would address the problem. One suggested baiting the trap with canned dog food. That didn’t work.

An animal pest specialist suggested placing overly ripe fruit in the trap. Asking the produce manager of a grocery store if they have any half-rotten apples, grapes and pears they would be willing to sell generates some strange looks.

Another suggested soaking marshmallows in a sugar solution as bait.

I am on my second week of half-rotten fruit. Unless the pest is trapped with fruit, a trail of marshmallows is next on the agenda.

My wise spouse asked what I intended to do if I find an armadillo in the trap one morning. Open the trap and bash the varmint in the head with a shovel as he flees, I replied. “Use a gun, not a shovel,” she suggested. “Your reflexes are not as fast as they once were.”

I have a backup plan: My visitor is probably a nine-banded armadillo, closely related to anteaters and sloths, with roots in Texas. Because of their low metabolic rate and lack of fat insulation, cold is their enemy. Intemperate weather can wipe them out quickly

It’s December. If the trap fails, a cold snap will stop the invasion from Texas.

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Larry Fugate is a veteran journalist and former editor of The Pine Bluff Commercial. He can be reached by e-mail at fugatel@sbcglobal.net or at (870) 329-7010.