Robyn Brown, a Nashville buddy and talented gardener, told me last week that her garden is under siege by armadillos. I was all ears. The nine-banded armadillos are rooting around her garden like little armored feral pigs. These foreign invaders arrived in Western Kentucky over twenty years ago. There was road kill to prove it. They are edging their way to Louisville. I don’t like the sound of this
J. Paul Moore, also of Nashville, posted recently on Facebook: “Armadillo (I am assuming) damage in my garden is about to end my gardening career! They are tearing up my garden paths like a tiller has been over them.”
For those long suffering with this Cenozoic mammalian relic, I doubt it would make armadillos sound more appealing to know they’re sometimes jokingly tagged as possums on the half shell. Surely not in Texas, where the first sightings were reported in 1849 and any affection long ago went stale. As time and armadillos marched on, Lone Star State motorists began clobbering them with their cars and trucks. Who better than Townes Van Zandt to write a song about armadillo road kill?
Robyn Brown hasn’t yet hit an armadillo with her SUV. She does chase after them in her garden with a broom. She explained in an email, “I swatted him on the back and he shot straight up in the air, turned around and looked at me and casually waddled off ignoring me completely.”
Armadillos are dumber than the dirt they burrow. Their talon-like claws work like plowshares.
And they’ve been linked as carriers of leprosy too.
Though they are the latest garden and bacterial threat, armadillos are not an immediate concern in Louisville. Still, they are less than two hundred miles away.
It took a couple of million years for the the South American native to slowly make its way to the United States. Pity the old Louisville and Nashville Railroad no longer runs. Armadillos could have hopped the L&N and been here in a couple of hours. Barring a return to cold winters, they’ll slowly ramble on to Louisville.
In spite of chronic complaining about this past cold Kentucky winter, it wasn’t that cold. The low temperature of – 5 is an average Zone 6b winter. We haven’t had and average winter in awhile. The ground didn’t freeze below an inch. (Our frost line for water lines is 30”, to give you some idea of how cold it can be.) I remember three winters in the last 40 years when it has gone to – 20 F or colder. Winters like that might keep the armadillos away. Or maybe not. There are reports that they’ve settled in Nebraska and Central Indiana, regions colder than Kentucky.
In somewhat related news, hawks and coyotes pose concern for young armadillos, but the adults should have a free run.
Deer and coyotes wandered onto our city street during the last two years. A baby fawn was born six weeks ago at our front doorstep. The deer and fawn adopted our garden as their preferred grazing ground. They fancy my hostas. Their scat is scattered across the scree beds. The coyotes, meanwhile, seem to be feasting on chipmunks that began overrunning the garden five years ago. I’m glad the chipmunk numbers have been diminished. I worried our house foundation might be compromised by their tunneling.
There are a couple of more troubling misfits encircling Louisville. The thousand cankers disease was reported a few years ago in Eastern Tennessee, and recently there were reports that it was discovered in Indiana and Ohio. One could presume that contaminated walnut timber was transported across Kentucky. The Southwestern USA native disease poses potential destruction to our precious black walnut.
The Asian longhorned beetle is parked across the Ohio River in southern Ohio. It’s a slow moving pest. That’s the only good news. The bad news, really bad news, is that’s it’s a voracious omnivore. The fast moving Emerald ash borer, with its fondness for Kentucky’s four native ash species is hunkered down and laying waste to virtually every ash tree in its path, but only ash species. The Asian longhorned beetle has an appetite for maple, buckeye, beech, sycamore, cherry and willow. And the list goes on.
Possums on the half shell travel at an estimated 2 1/2 – 6 miles per year. I’ll be in my mid-90s by the time they arrive in Louisville. Bring ‘em on! And if I can remember the melody, I’ll still be humming Townes Van Zandt’s song.