The Nine-Banded Armadillor
(Dasypus novemcinctus Linnaeus)
About the size of a small dog, the armadillo may be found throughout Texas except for the Trans-Pecos region of far West Texas. It's body is covered with bony shell which acts like armor to protect the animal from predators. Armadillos have powerful claws for digging up their dinner, mostly insects and their larvae. They also dig burrows in which to den. The softer the ground, the better they can dig, you may have even found evidence of their diggings in your backyard or garden. Although considered pests by some because of their digging habits, the armadillo eats a lot of grubs which are particularly harmful to agricultural crops.
Because they have virtually no hair to help them regulate their body temperature, armadillos will forage for food in the cool of summer evenings and on warm winter afternoons. They make a great deal of noise while foraging for insects and are fairly easy to sneak up on. When surprised they will leap straight up in the air which acts to startle any attacker while the armadillo scurries off to a safe den. Female armadillos give birth in spring and they always produce 4 identical quadruplets which are born fully formed with their eyes open. The armadillo has a particularly interesting method for crossing water. Its heavy armor shell causes it to sink. When faced with a narrow stream or a water filled ditch, the armadillo will simply walk across the bottom, under water. However, when up against a wider body of water, the armadillo will swallow enough air to inflate its stomach to twice its normal size. This increased buoyancy then allows the armadillo to swim across. Afterwards, it takes the armadillo several hours to release all the excess air from its body. The armadillo is the only animal, aside from humans, known to carry leprosy. For this reason it is illegal to sell a live armadillo in the State of Texas. The armadillo was designated the official small state mammal by the 74th Legislature.