Armadillo Milestone

Series of Polaroid-style photos of an armadillo at night

I was awakened around 4:30 Monday morning by a noise coming from outside our bedroom window. I immediately recognized the sound, even though it has been almost a year since I last heard it. It was unmistakable evidence of an armadillo banging around inside a wooden trap, seeking an escape route.

I’d been setting that trap for more than a week, and I was growing increasingly impatient — and feeling a bit hopeless — as the critter(s) managed to evade/defeat my attempts to bring an end to the damage to the flowerbed. On several occasions, I had found that the trap had either only partially closed, or the trapped animal had someone managed to escape.

I listened to the banging noise for about twenty minutes, and finally gave up on getting back to sleep. I wanted to make sure that (1) it was actually an armadillo I had caught and not a skunk, and (b) the trap was secured to the point where escape was impossible. I grabbed the 2000-lumen flashlight that I keep on the nightstand, turned on the back yard lights, and went outside to investigate.

Don’t let that innocent look fool you; it’s a hardened criminal!

Sure enough, an armadillo was in the trap, so I moved it to another location that would block any attempt of escape. As I turned to go back inside, a movement caught my eye: a second armadillo was continuing to root through the mulch, apparently ignorant of (or unperturbed by) my presence.

I didn’t have a second trap, but I figured the least I could do was herd him (or her) out of the yard. I shooed it toward the back gate, where it unsuccessfully attempted to jump through the bars of our metal fence. I tried — half-heartedly, I confess — to grab it a couple of times, but it bucked and thrashed like a rodeo bull and I gave up on that tactic. I did, however, managed to herd it into a corner, where I blocked its exit with a couple of large storage boxes, figuring to wrangle it into the trap once I’d relocated the current occupant.

The co-conspirator trying unsuccessfully to make a break for it.

Content with the arrangements, I went back inside, turned on the coffeemaker, and waiting for sunrise.

Unfortunately, I had made a tragic miscalculation. Well, to paraphrase Vizzini from The Princess Bride, I had fallen victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is, “never get involved in a land war in Asia,” but only slightly less well-known is this: “never underestimate the ability of an armadillo to escape from an apparently inescapable predicament.” In other words, while the first armadillo was still in the trap, the second one had somehow broken out of the barriers, thereby living to root another day.

The animal in the trap holds a special place in Casa Fire Ant history, as it’s the 100th armadillo that I’ve captured in our yard since we moved here in 2017. It has been a year since I last caught one, as I had decided to rely on a somewhat tenuous truce with the creatures: as long as they dug around only in the mulched flower beds and didn’t damage the lawn or our plants, we could co-exist. Unfortunately, they didn’t honor their end of the truce, and so the trap has been re-deployed.

Critter scorecard — Updated

I relocated the trapped armadillo to an undisclosed location outside town before breakfast. The second one remains at large — he showed up on my trail camera last night, apparently unbowed by his narrow escape as he continued to ravage the flowerbed. But my message to him is simple: enjoy your nights of freedom while you may, my friend, because I assure you that they’re numbered. By Grabthar’s Hammer, our plants will be avenged!

#100 heads out to seek its fortune elsewhere.