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Late Sunday afternoon,
walking home from fetching greens
in the high tunnel
to feed the barn-bound chickens,
guineas and rabbits,
I heard a rustling of leaves
and spotted a large
nine-banded Armadillo
gathering leaves for a nest.
I had never seen this before
and sat down not far away
to watch.
Armadillos have poor eyesight
and evidently I didn’t smell like a threat,
so it carried on without noticing me.
It’s like a dance…
She puts her front paws out to her right,
gathers a few leaves and tucks them
under her belly
as she hops backward,
her strong tail helping her balance;
then she puts her front paws out to her left,
tucking more leaves under her belly
as she hops backward.
She continues until she has
a load of dried leaves
and has reached the hole in the ground
that is her nest.
She disappears for a few moments,
then comes back up
and again begins the gathering
to the right
grab and hop,
to the left
grab and hop,
to the right,
grab and hop,
to the left…
Evidently the Armadillo
fills the underground chamber with dried leaves
and then burrows in
to keep warm.
With low metabolism
and few fat stores,
they prefer warm climates
and the prairie’s sudden temperature drop
can kill them.
Related to the sloth,
the anteater
they are the only mammals
armored with such shells.
They sleep a lot
but we often see them—
even entire families—
digging in the grass,
scurrying when spotted.
I’ve counted several in one pasture
on Sunday walks.
This winter is already the coldest
we’ve experienced for two years.
I can see why
after a week of frigid temperatures,
and on a warmer Sunday afternoon,
this Armadillo is padding
its nest.
Glad I got to watch!