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Those armadillos are living rent-free
Liberty lore
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If you live in Long, Tattnall or Liberty counties, you probably have seen one of my cousins. I live in rural Tattnall County, but I have cousins all over the southeastern United States.

We seldom have a family reunion because we cannot seem to make it across the highways without getting killed. You see, I am an armadillo! I know you do not think very much of me, but I want to tell you about myself.

I am called the nine-banded armadillo, and I am the only one that lives in the United States.

There are two other kinds that live in South America. One is the pink fairy, which grows only 5 or 6 inches long. The giant armadillo may be up to 59 inches long and weigh up to 130 pounds.

My average length is only 30 inches. Now, aren’t you glad that I am the only one living here?

I am a placental mammal with a leather armor shell.

Armadillo in Spanish means “little armored one.” The Aztec call me “azotochti,” which means “turtle-rabbit.”

The top of my brownish body is covered with a boney armor, but the underside of me is covered with soft skin and fur.

I have big eyes but very poor vision. My cylindrical ears look funny and are quite big, and my hearing is excellent. My face is long and snout-like. 

My long tail is tapered and covered completely with bony rings.

I leave my sign in the dirt as I travel. I have clawed toes on my hindfeet and three to five toes with heavy digging claws on my forefeet.

I have 32 peg-like teeth. My armor provides a lot of protection from other predators, but my main defense is fleeing or digging to safety.

My legs are stout and very short but can move very quickly!

If I happen to be in water, I must inflate my stomach and intestines with air, which doubles their size. Then I can stay under water for as long as six minutes, which allows me to swim across small, narrow bodies of water.

I am a prolific digger with very sharp claws used for digging food, such as grubs, ants and termites, and digging my tunnel, where I sleep about 16 hours a day.

I enjoy leaving my tunnel when it gets dark outside and traveling around the yard during the night and very early morning while most of you humans are sleeping.

I live under this Love couple’s front porch right now. I know I am safe there because they cannot crawl under it as it is close to the ground.

I do not like very cold weather. During the winter, I may get out during the hottest part of the day to feed.

I thought I would freeze to death last winter because it was extremely cold!

There is a little aggravating white and brown dog that likes to bark at me, and he makes me so mad. However, he never gets to bite me. I think I scare him.

I have several cousins that live near the house.

One lives under the shelter of an old stalk cutter with a platform on it. I wish the man would hurry and fix the cutter.

My cousin dug a hole under one side next to the wheel, and the whole thing is going to turn over and maybe hurt him if he happens to be outside and near it.

Another cousin lives down by the spring next to the shallow pump.

We love living on this farm because there are so many good, sheltered places to hide. Each of us may have more than one home.

Believe it or not, sometimes we eat cat food or dog food that we find.

A few weeks ago, the lady of the house left a bundle of fresh Glennville onions on the back doorstep. I found them and chomped down on a big one. Yuck!

I left those things alone and had bad breath the rest of the night! I’m glad it was not mating season.

I do not really know how many from our clan live here, but it is quite a number.

I hear the man and woman fussing all the time about the little holes that we dig in the nice, green grass in the yard and around the flowerbeds.

I hear them say that it looks like a bunch of wild hogs have been rooting in the yard.

The lady loves to plant flowers such as hydrangeas down in the wet area. This gives me a great place to search for food in the nice, soft dirt she just dug for her plants!

One time the lady stepped in one of my holes and almost fell down. She was mad, but I refuse to cover the holes I dig looking for food. She should look where she goes!

Do you know what we do when we get surprised? We can jump straight up.

This is what happens when we try to have a family reunion. We try to cross the dirt roads or paved roads and some big monstrous animal comes roaring down the road about the time we get on it.

They have very bright eyes or lights on them that hurt our eyes. It surprises us, so we jump straight up and hit the bottom of their steel bodies.

I have heard people talking about us, and some had the audacity to call us “redneck speed bumps.” We did not appreciate this ugly comment.

Talking about jumping straight up, let me tell you about how I scared this Love lady.

One night I was in her backyard (or my backyard) just minding my own business, looking for supper around 10 p.m.

She came out the back door with a bright LED flashlight calling, “Here, kitty, kitty.”

I guess that is the little black animal I see when I peer out of my hiding place. He likes to roam around under the house as well.

Well, I was about 6 feet from the back porch when she shined that bright light right into my eyes and almost blinded me. I see poorly enough as it is.

Anyway, I was so surprised that I jumped straight up in the air about 4 feet.

That lady screamed and when I landed, I scurried under the house out of her way. She ran, too, but I think she was going to the bathroom!

I heard her tell the story about one of my cousins that lived near the pump house in Walthourville.

It seemed that my cousin had burrowed very nice hole under the utility house that was right beside the water pump and tank.

The house had a cement floor. He dug so much dirt from it that they were afraid the house was going to collapse.

That man and woman and three children hunted my cousin armadillo all the time and always fussed about him.

The man was a Hinesville policeman and worked the night shift. One night they heard Sugar, the big dog, barking at something.

They all went to investigate and found my cousin outside his tunnel. The woman grabbed the shovel, and the children grabbed the hoes. They fought with that bad boy for more than an hour. He had the sharpest claws.

Finally, after much sweating and hard work, they managed to get him corralled into a large, wire rabbit cage.

They loaded the pen into the back of their pickup truck. The woman put a large concrete block on top of the pen, and they hardly could wait for the man to come home in the morning.

They had a surprise to show him. There would be no more tunneling under the utility house.

When morning came, they all ran outside proudly to show off their catch from the night before. They were surprised!

My armadillo cousin had managed to get out of that rabbit pen and out of the back of the truck that also had the tailgate up.

The policeman thought his family had made up a large tale, but they had told him the honest truth. The woman said she was worn out from fighting with that strong animal.

When the lady lived in Allenhurst on Jefferson Street, she was not bothered as much with my cousins because the yard was fenced in and the fence was below the ground.

But once in a while, one would get in the yard. That same little aggravating dog lived there as well. One night, the dog began barking nonstop while my cousin was minding his own business rooting around in the yard, which already had many holes in it.

That mean woman came out with her big stick and found him. He was near the gate, so she opened it and finally forced him outside.

He began running and then stopped when she got near him. He snorted at her, and she got scared that he was going to attack her. She went back inside the yard!

I do not recall the exact time that we crossed the Florida line and came up to Georgia to live. Heck, there were too many tourists down there.

I recall hearing Margie tell the following story.

In 1963 when she was living with her family on the old Watford Place outside of Ludowici, her boyfriend came to see her late one evening. He described an unusual dead animal by the road when he came to her house.

Margie listened and remembered studying the continent of South America. She immediately recognized the roadkill as an armadillo.

Going to the scene of the roadkill, she identified it as one. That was the first time, but surely not the last, that these people would see some of our family.

Oh yeah, we do have love lives. I have one husband, but he chooses to have several wives.

I give birth to four identical quadruplets about eight months after mating.

My babies are born with soft, leathery skins, which harden within a few weeks. They are fully formed with their eyes open and are able to walk just a few hours after birth.

They accompany me on my forage for food after just a few weeks.

In four months, they are self-sufficient and I usually kick them out of the burrow.

I do not like another adult living in my burrow because I am a solitary animal! If my babies are girls, I will be a grandmother the following year.

My male cousin armadillos mark their home territory with urine. In early zoo collections years ago, this habit was responsible for many of the males’ deaths. Whenever the cages were cleaned, the males re-marked their territories so thoroughly that they became dehydrated and died.

This is a warning to you: It was announced April 27 that leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, is caused by handling or eating armadillos. The scientists had been working on this theory for many years and finally had all the proof they needed to make this announcement.

The leprosy bacteria we carry causes about one-third of all new cases in Texas and Louisiana, where people hunt, skin and eat us.

This especially is true if you have a cut or scratch and get the blood on it. It also is true if you eat the flesh, even though many claim it tastes as good as pork.

Almost 250 people in the United States get leprosy each year. It begins as lesions on the body accompanied with loss of sensation of the nerves in and under the skin.

Early detection is necessary to cure it by taking a combination of three antibiotics for about two years. If not treated, they will suffer lifelong nerve damage as a result.

About 20 percent of our armadillo population carry the disease. Leprosy joins other infectious diseases that are known to jump from animals to humans such as the flu and SARS.

Armadillos are the only non-human animals known to harbor the infection. There are about 36,000 people being treated for leprosy in the United States at this time.

So, please, I beg you to take precautions and leave my family alone!

I heard Margie tell her husband, Gene, she knew of two ways they could get rid of me and all my cousins living on their farm.

One was a 12-pound bag of pellets made from coyote urine that costs almost $100.

These are sprinkled around in the yard, but if it rains, more has to be put out.

Now, we are scared of coyotes, and if we think this bad boy is around, we will hit the road and leave if we are able to get across!

I wonder how they caught enough coyotes and made them pee in a cup!

The other thing she told him about is an electronic high-frequency noisemaker. You plug it in and select the animal whose ears you want to hurt.

We cannot stand the piercing noise from one of these and will have to move on.

They also sell for around $100 if you do not find them on sale.

I certainly hope that mean woman does not decide to buy either because I enjoy living on her nice farm.

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