Googling "armadillo winter" the very first hit turned out to be a story from Watersheds.org/ about Dr. Lynn Robbins who was working the then SMS university field station in Taney County. This undated article described his surprise in finding armadillos out and about after a severe winter. We were also surprised, as the last winter armadillo we had found was frozen to death, its snout sticking two inches into the ground as if it was trying to dig its burrow too late.
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Armadillos are not designed for cold or dry climates. They need moist soil to dig in for insects. With their shell, heat means no sweat. They control their temperature by circulating blood into their legs for evaporation to cool their body. This circulation leaves them little protection from the winter cold. The last two days of melting snow and sunshine was probably our friend's first chance to dig for food in a week and explained its willingness to ignore us.
Several things you might not know about armadillos:
- They can "get across a body of water by two methods. The first method is the ability to float across by gulping air into their stomachs and intestines, and secondly, if the body of water is shallow enough, the nine-banded armadillo is able to walk across the bottom by holding its breath for up to five minutes." *
- Females produce one fertilized egg which then divides into exactly four identical babies. Implantation of their egg may be delayed as long as 4 months in unfavorable conditions.**
- When startled, they can jump 3-4 feet in the air. A good survival tool when facing a predator, this is a dangerous trait when encountering a car with a driver trying to avoid running over it.
- They are as primitive as they look. Related to sloths and anteaters, the first ones evolved 50 million years ago in South America. When the submerged Panamanian strip of land emerged from the sea 2.5 million years ago, they were able to start toward what would become North America. *
Winter pictures on Bull Creek are at https://picasaweb.google.com/rekipfer
* The Biogeography of the Nine-Banded Armadillo