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As an Agriculture Extension Agent for Texas AgriLife Extension Service I have had an opportunity to be involved in just about every aspect of agriculture. From the 5,000 cow dairy to the types of trees to use in a home landscape I have had a chance to learn how the different parts of an agriculture systems work together. Seedless watermelons, drip irrigation, pecan orchard management, fruit crop development, dairy nutrient management, environmental issues confronting agriculture, producer tours, field days, research projects and more have been a part of my life for over 30 years as I lived and breathed agriculture. Since 2004 I have been actively involved in consulting internationally working in Honduras, Guatemala, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, India, and China. I have worked with missionaries and other groups dedicated to alleviating poverty among third world farmers. I lived in the Middle East in 2007-2008 working on a project for the Borlaug Institute of International Agriculture at Texas A&M University. In this project I was the Chief of Party and Team Leader for a $5.7 Million dollar effort to train Iraqi Extension agents and specialists in all aspects of agriculture.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Armadillos: It's Either Them or Us!!

The calls have been pouring in about armadillos this week. As an Extension Agent I am obligated to answer all calls but I am about to decide no more armadillo calls! It seems that we want to live in the country but no one wants the country to come live with them.
Armadillos or more specifically the Nine-banded Armadillo is a cat-sized, armored, insect-eating mammal. Similar in form to an anteater, the bony, scaled shell of the armadillo protects it from attacks by predators. By the way the females always have four young!
A prolific digger, armadillos dig many burrows, as well as dig for food. Distribution is often determined by soil conditions, since the animal will not survive in areas where the soil is too hard to dig (our drought is the reason they love wet lawns). Many other wildlife species use and benefit from these abandoned burrows. Although occasionally considered a nuisance by home owners, the armadillo's habit of digging up lawns is driven by its appetite for grubs, which can also harm lawns.
Armadillos have poor eyesight, but a keen sense of smell. In spite of their cumbersome appearance, armadillos can run fast when in danger. They also are good swimmers and can walk across the bottoms of small streams.
Armadillos are active primarily from twilight hours through early morning hours in the summer. In the winter they may be active only during the day. Armadillos are burrowing animals. Their burrows are usually 7 or 8 inches in diameter and up to 15 feet in length. Burrows are most commonly located in rock piles or around stumps, brush piles, etc. Armadillos dig a number of burrows within an area for escape.
More than 90 percent of the armadillo’s diet is insect matter. They also feed on earthworms, scorpions, spiders, snails, etc., as well as on fruit and vegetable matter such as berries and tender roots.
One method to control an armadillo is to trap them (the other is to wait up at night and shoot them but the police don’t particularly like this in our neighborhoods). This is easier said than done. Since they are somewhat blind, setting out a live trap just anywhere in your yard will not work. It is best if you can find its burrow or trails that the armadillo uses. Once you’ve located these areas, your chances of having the armadillo stumble into your trap are much greater.
The best method of trapping is to funnel them into a live trap. You can use plywood or lumber about 6 inches wide or wider and about 8 feet long. This funnel will guide the armadillo into the trap. In the trap it is good to use rotten fruit as bait and since the armadillo can feel the wire of the trap on its feet you may want to use some type of mulch laid down at the entrance of the trap. This hopefully will keep the animal walking straight into the trap. With a little patience, determination and a lot of luck anyone can catch an armadillo! Remember once it is in the trap it is yours…..

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