Armadillos are clumsy and look out of place here in the forests of Missouri. But they can stir up trouble when you decide to camp in the woods- I should know!
I have always loved wildlife, ever since I was kid. Growing up, my favorite thing to do was to watch those National Geographic documentaries about wolf packs in Yellowstone or Whale Sharks near the Great Barrier Reef. In fact, a wildlife show called Big Cat Diary was what inspired me to volunteer in Kenya and go on Safari!
Back in my home state of Missouri we have plenty of wild animals too. From the deer, squirrels and raccoons to an array of brightly colored birds like the Cardinal or Blue bird.
One such creature however isn’t from around here though. The Armadillo migrated from South America, invaded Mexico and ambled north as far as Nebraska. Today, the Nine-Banded Armadillo traverses much of southern Missouri, digging burrows, eating insects and unfortunately becoming roadkill along our many busy highways and country roads.
Did you know there are 20 species of Armadillo, all found in the Western Hemisphere?!
I like these little guys though. They don’t move too fast, (partly because their eye sight and hearing are terrible) and they curl up into a ball when they get scared, like a hairy bowling ball with legs! Apparently though, only the Southern Three- Banded Armadillo curls up into a ball, and they’re endemic to Brazil. This one here in Missouri is said to jump 4 feet into the air when frightened!… Something we have in common.
When I was attending college at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, I would often go hiking and explore the woods of the nearby Knob Noster State Park. Let’s rephrase that: When I could be bothered to tear myself away from drinking and chasing girls… I went hiking.
But when I’d go, I would love the still and calm of the forest. It helped soothe my spirit and ground me into a feeling of peace and joy- a much needed break from the fraternity life and drinking games.
One time, after watching a marathon of Man vs. Wild, I decided I could do that. I could trek into the woods with nothing but some rope, a knife and a British accent and survive the wild, so that’s what I did.
A giant party was ragging downstairs with music so loud the house shook. I threw a small pack over my shoulder and quietly snuck out the front door and drove to a secluded trail head at dusk, to begin my night survival training. Bear Grylls style!
The smallest species is the Pink Fairy Armadillo, weighing in at a whopping one pound and is only 6 inches in length. The Giant Armadillo is the largest, up to 73 pounds and 5 feet long!
I hiked in for an hour and set up camp right there on the trail. I improvised a shelter using some sticks, my rope and tarp I’d brought and crawled inside. I was laying in the dirt, forgot to bring any food and decided immediately this was a stupid idea. But I couldn’t go back now, I’d look foolish.
I made a small fire and listened to the creepy sounds of the forest at night… of which there are many! Seriously, what are all those creaks, groans and shuffling’s about that you hear in the middle of the forest at night?!?! I couldn’t sleep!
Darkness closed in around me as I eventually grew accustomed to my surroundings, trying to think what Bear Grylls goes through when he survives in the wild. Yeah right, he’s a TV personality. He probably goes to his hotel for a nice dinner and celebrity style treatment!
As I laid there and contemplated this, my eyes grew heavy and I finally started to fall asleep. Just as I began to fade into my subconscious for the night, I heard a distant patter of footsteps, rapidly approaching. It grew louder and louder and LOUDER and suddenly some creature ran right into my feet and up my leg!!!
Did you know Armadillos can’t see so well? And also… they are terrifying?!
I leaped into the air- my heart beating wildly like a hummingbird! My stick and rope shelter went everywhere as I flailed about throwing bits of wood and dirt in all directions and screaming OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD!! I even stumbled backward into my fire, kicking hot coals and embers into the surrounding dry leaf beds and had to quickly stomp it out.
With all this going on my peripheral vision caught glimpse of this oblivious, bumbling, pink and grey animal running like mad into the forest. It’s rounded back and (I’m assuming here) dopey expression were unmistakable.
Once my heart stopped beating like the tribal drums of Jumanji, I sat down to think, said “F*ck this” and went home… at 3 in the morning- leaving my pride and manhood in ruins, along with my survival shelter.Don’t let the Nine-banded Armadillo fool you. Their mischief spreads as far as their terrain.… Click To Tweet
My career as a survival expert may be on the back burner for now. But when I tell people I camp in the woods alone and have survived a brush with death from an animal attack, I sound pretty macho. Until they read this post I guess.
I’m not so enamored with armadillos anymore.
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**All photos in this post courtesy of pixabay.com**