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“Dillers”…Should they stay or should they go?

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May 24, 2010 by wcobserver

By Ben Few    

Spring is here and Observer readers are asking the traditional vernal question, “WHAT’S DIGGING UP MY LAWN AND GARDEN?!”  Without even looking, I can tell you it’s the usual villain, the armadillo, on its nightly quest for grubs, bugs and worms.    A native of South America and Mexico, the armadillo — locally referred to as the diller — has been expanding its range northward and is pretty much here to stay, barring another ice age.  And of course it has its friends as well as foes.  There are people who can tell you the exact tonnage of harmful grubs and bugs the diller destroys each year, and others who can quote the precise number of lawns and garden vegetables it wrecks in the process.  So if you want to get rid of your diller, be aware that it’s a trade-off; you can have more bugs and grubs or a better lawn and more veggies.  

Of the twenty different species of dillers, the only kind we have here in North America is the Nine-Banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), also known as “possum on the half-shell.”  Other types have tried to sneak in but haven’t had very good luck.  

The Pink Fairy Armadillo (Chlamyphorus truncatus) got as far north as Texas where it was confronted by an angry mob that hollered and read aloud from the Bible and waved signs that said GOD HATES FAGS. More puzzled than alarmed, the pink fairies talked it over, realized that there might be tolerance issues here and decided to head back south to have another look at Patagonia.

The Giant Armadillo (Priodontes maximus) never got to Arkansas. Be glad.  Be very glad. Five feet long, 130 pounds and wearing full body armor, these things dig for ants, mice and rats and, overnight, a pair of them could dig up Walmart’s parking lot. The only known means of controlling them is the helicopter gunship.

The Screaming Hairy Armadillo (Chaetophractus vellorosus) is something I don’t even like to think about. It’s a loud, disgusting mess and we will discuss it no further, except to mention that yes, there really is such a thing.

But back to our resident nine-banded armadillo.    Since most people’s only experience of armadillos is to see them as roadkill, this has led to the belief that dillers are born dead by the side of the road.  Not true; their great success at becoming a mess on the roadway mostly stems from their startle reaction, which is to leap straight up when surprised.  This works fine when the diller is startled by a snake, not so fine when it’s startled by a fast-moving car or truck. Then it leaps to just about bumper height.   An additional fact that adds to the road-splatter is that dillers have very poor eyesight and they’re stupid as a sack of dirt.

Another frightening rumor is that armadillos can give you leprosy. Again, not true, but they can get leprosy themselves, which only adds to the ickyness factor.  

Now, on to methods of diller control.  You can try fencing your whole place, but if the dillers really want your bugs and grubs, they’ll just dig under the fence and the dillerage will continue.  Also, before you go to all that work and expense, first be sure the thing isn’t living under your house. 

Another favorite strategy is to acquire a good diller dog, but take care to get a dog from good dillering stock. Little Muffy, who spends her evenings couching out and watching the tube isn’t going to cut it. You need a truly dedicated dog that stays out all night, doesn’t wander and just lives to kill armadillos, so next time you overhear some ol’ boy in the coffee shop bragging on his diller dog, ask him about a pup. 

Forget humane live-trapping; you’d have to use live bugs and grubs, and your bait will simply follow its own agenda and walk away. 

Finally, there’s the do-it-yourself diller eradication campaign.  This doesn’t work if you live in town because it involves discharging loud firearms, a municipal no-no that can produce upset neighbors, collateral damage, fines and scared police officers screaming FREEZE! FREEZE! But way out here in the Nine Moons community, this method works just fine.

To do this you’ll need a good strong flashlight, an accurate handgun of any caliber  and a lot of practice. Traditional attire for this midnight sport is pajama bottoms and unlaced boots.  What you have to do is hold the light on top of your head and get your eyeball, rear sight, front sight , light beam and running diller all lined up together.  Buy an armful of ammunition and practice shooting at a rusty coffee can after dark.  In time this will result in a whole new set of skills, less diller damage and partial deafness.  But also, more bugs and grubs in your lawn and garden. 

Whether you’re for or against the whole idea of undocumented dillers moving to Arkansas, at least we have them to thank for finally answering a question that humanity has pondered through the ages; why did the chicken cross the road? Of course, it was to prove to the armadillo that it really could be done.

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1 comment »

  1. susan cooney says:

    Thank you so much for this information about armadillos. I always knew I loved them but now I know why. They dig up the slugs, hopefully, all the Japanese Beetles AND we saw one last night chasing down a mouse. Those I can do with less of. Thank you!

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