Archive for Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Armadillos venturing northward — and upward

June 24, 2009


A cyclist passes by a dead armadillo in the middle of County Road 458, just west of U.S. Highway 59, Tuesday. Armadillos are not common to this part of Kansas.

A cyclist passes by a dead armadillo in the middle of County Road 458, just west of U.S. Highway 59, Tuesday. Armadillos are not common to this part of Kansas.

Turns out an armadillo’s natural defenses don’t stand up all that well to cars, trucks and SUVs.

A suit of armor doesn’t do much good when you jump up to three times your height while standing in the middle of the road.

“When they’re frightened, they turn and see they’re about to get pegged,” said Roger Wolfe, a regional wildlife biologist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks. “Then they leap — and meet the radiator.

“They lose most of the time, and sometimes cause some damage to the car.”

Officials say armadillos have been rambling through areas of Lawrence and rural Douglas County for at least 10 years now. Sometimes the armored mammals have hitched rides on trucks and harvest combines from Texas and Oklahoma, while others appear to have grown up in the area, as warmer winters have extended nature’s limits up into southern Nebraska.

But such animals opting to cross a road — including a certain nine-banded armadillo that ventured to scurry across Douglas County Road 458, just west of U.S. Highway 59 — often end up flat on their backs.

Armadillos possess exceptionally strong hind legs, which allow them both to burrow for food and shelter and to startle predators by leaping high into the air before scurrying to safety.

When a passing vehicle gets involved, unfortunately, the leaping often doesn’t help.

“They literally catapult themselves,” said Marty Birrell, nature education supervisor at Prairie Park Nature Center in Lawrence. “The minute they go into that defensive mode, they do this vertical explosion that puts them at headlight level.”

While Birrell has seen several armadillos dropped off at the nature center during the past 10 years, she doesn’t expect such animals to overtake the area. Daniel Merriam, a senior scientist emeritus at the Kansas Geological Survey in Lawrence, considers armadillos too susceptible to cold weather to be able to establish large populations in the area anytime soon.

So Keith Browning, the county’s director of public works, isn’t worried.

While deer are involved in nearly a third of all auto accidents in rural Douglas County, he said, the armadillo menace thus far has yet to generate a need for ’dillo warnings.

“Now we’ve got one armadillo (incident) for the whole county,” he said Tuesday, after learning of the photographic evidence of critter carnage on County Road 458. “I don’t think we’ve crossed the install-signs threshold.”

Visit transportation reporter Mark Fagan's Wheel Genius blog and follow WheelGenius at


BigPrune 8 years ago

logrithmic is part of the "human extinction movement."

Perhaps the former mayor's task force on global warming should have an emergency meeting.

think_about_it 8 years ago

"as warmer winters have extended nature’s limits up into southern Nebraska."

Any proof to that statement? Has the author really been in this area the last few years?

Ronda Miller 8 years ago

Don't I remember a citizen journalist writing something about "What's Up With the Armadillo" recently? I guess it actually was news to others besides just me...well, nothing is new to autie. He is on top of it all...even the dillo.....

Bob_Keeshan 8 years ago

I've seen carcasses on US 40 this year as well.

tolawdjk 8 years ago

A live armadillo is a myth.

They are born dead on the side of the road.

amyc 8 years ago

Oh, no, tolawdjk, they are only sleeping. Silly place to sleep, but that's it, they are sleeping.

Flap Doodle 8 years ago

TOB, peace reigns in the lemur kingdom at the moment. I started giving them popsicles with a little vodka mixed in & they stay mellow most of the day.

Tyson Travis 8 years ago

The most creative use we see for these down here in Arkansas is to carefully position an empty beer can between the front careful however, not just to keep from being run down yourself, but because Armadillos are the only animals besides humans who carry leprosy. Have fun!

rtwngr 8 years ago

I just want to know if these are "undocumented" armadillos. I think ICE should initiate a full scale investigation. I, for one, would like to know if there is a mastermind terrorist organization behind this influx of armadillos. This is how it all starts, you know. First they refer to themselves as something other than terrorists, e.g. "rodents". Next thing you know they are leaping up in front of oncoming automobiles, trying to distract the drivers into making a tragic mistake behind the wheel. We need to seal our borders at the international borders, state line, county line, and city limits.

daddax98 8 years ago

"...Armadillos are the only animals besides humans who carry leprosy"

so you are saying the little leapers are lepers

RoeDapple 8 years ago

If everybody drove F-150's with fat tires and straight pipes the armadillo would stay well back from the road. Heck, they might even go back to Oklahoma!

Dateable_Shelter_Dude 8 years ago

Good to know about the leprosy. I always thought it would be fun to dress them up in mankinis, waitress or mailmans uniforms so people would really wonder as they drove by. Scatter some junk mail.Prison uniform with shackles.

roger_o_thornhill 8 years ago

"...electric armadillo prii drivers" --that is what, as a youth, I would have considered a "good name for a band".

boy_genius 8 years ago

He's not dead, he's pining for the [natural landform commonly associated with Texas].

bluerayborn 8 years ago

Well... that one won't be making it home for lunch.

woodenfleaeater 8 years ago

blueray....that is, unless Ted Nugent finds it. Then it might be lunch.

gphawk89 8 years ago

Large closeup pic of roadkill on the LJW home page. Nice...

woodenfleaeater 8 years ago

The dead armadillo picture makes a great wallpaper!!! Thanks LJW!!!!!!

jumpin_catfish 8 years ago

That picture makes me think of Obama and the demorats after the midterm elections in 2010.

gphawk89 8 years ago


LOL!! First time I've ever typed "LOL" - your comment was great!

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