What's Up!

September 27, 2020

What's Up - Your guide to what's happening in Fayetteville, AR this week!

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D uring a walk at dusk a few weeks ago, I nearly tripped over a round shadow moving across my path. Quickly sidestepping, I realized it was a large armadillo imitating our black cat who is always getting underfoot. The armadillo stood up, sniffed the air a few times, and carelessly started foraging around my feet. A pattern of scars on its back inspired a name: Patches the armadillo. I often meet the punctual Patches at sunset while he scurries across our driveway. Even an armadillo can keep a schedule! Armadillos – "little armored ones" in Spanish – are not truly native to Arkansas. Professor Rebecca McPeake, University of Arkansas Extension Service, wrote that "nine-banded armadillos were first officially reported in north Arkansas in 1921, though they were believed to have been translocated there by people and failed to become an established population. By 1944, armadillos were well established in southwestern Arkansas, presumably naturally expanding from Texas and Louisiana. By 1990, armadillos were reported statewide." Seeing them regularly around the farm is a bit jarring, like observing polar bears in a desert or a macaw in the arctic. Since they don't really belong here, winter nearly wipes them out. They have poor thermoregulation, not much fat and can't hibernate. They must switch from summer nocturnal foraging to escape the heat to winter diurnal foraging to escape the cold. If the weather is freezing, they can stay in their burrows awhile, but they may starve. They eat primarily beetles and larvae. Their summer diet is varied: grubs, earthworms, spiders, fruits, frogs and the occasional snake, lizard or bird's eggs. In winter, they primarily eat fly larvae and can also feed on the maggots in carrion. Patches and friends will even eat fire ants and a whole nest of yellow jackets, so if you can tolerate the holes armadillos make, they can be beneficial to keep around. Last night we had three armadillos in our yard, including Patches. We nicknamed the other two Bic Mac and Dottie. Armadillos have poor eyesight and hearing. If you stand nearby unmoving, they are unlikely to see you. But their sense of smell is incredibly good and enables them to find food as well as avoid predators like bobcats, foxes, coyotes and the evil automobile. Because they jump over three feet when frightened, they often become roadkill. Patches could've been involved in a romantic episode that occurred beneath our off-grid tiny house one evening many seasons ago. We heard a loud commotion after dark, and when I went outside to investigate from the front steps, my flashlight revealed two armadillos racing around beneath the trailer bed, knocking over buckets and tools. One was grunting audibly while closely chasing the other in a hopping fashion reminiscent of kangaroos. The other seemed to be blindly trying to escape but retracing its path. This may have been a mated pair or a male chasing another male out of its territory; the mating behavior of armadillos is not yet well understood. In a bizarre twist, female armadillos give birth in March or April (after a few months' delayed implantation) to genetically identical quadruplets of the same gender. Despite appearances, armadillos are mammals, and the young will nurse and stay with their mothers for about three to six months. They reach sexual maturity around one year old, and can live up to 15 years. So we could possibly see Patches around for as long as we've raised our cat — and trip on them both! Amanda Bancroft is a writer, artist, and naturalist living in an off-grid tiny house on Kessler Mountain. She and her husband Ryan blog about their adventures and offer tips to those wanting to make a difference at www. RipplesBlog.org. SEPTEMBER 27-OCTOBER 3, 2020 WHAT'S UP! 37 COLUMNIST MAKING RIPPLES Amanda Bancroft RipplesBlog.org Armor-Plated Neighbors "Big Mac" is one of three armadillos seen regularly around the tiny house where Amanda Bancroft lives in south Fayetteville. (Courtesy Photos/Amanda Bancroft) Armadillos welcome, if you don't mind the holes

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