Twas little more than a year ago when I faced my death at the hands of a marauding armadillo. Anguish rested in the deadlight of its eyes. The scars from that encounter have never healed. To this day I tremor at the thought of The Beast and how close I came to finding my end in that dark morning hour.
Since then I have witnessed the monsters ravaging gardens and greenery throughout the area in search of buried souls on which to dine, yet I’ve been unable to overcome the fright that keeps me from standing in their presence.
But the universe has a way of making us face our fear despite our best laid plans. And so, at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge two weeks ago, I again stood on the precipice of horror, only this time it was in the light of day and no shadows could hide me from the ogre.
It began innocently enough: while I walked the Heron Flats Trail, a swamp rabbit scrambled for cover as I approached. Something else remained, though, something viciously uprooting plants and sending wads of dirt flying through the air. I trembled at the sight of it. I felt I was reliving a nightmare.
I cowered on the opposite side of the clearing hoping to go unnoticed. Still the behemoth approached, moving closer, sneaking betwixt and between plants that shielded it from direct view.
I needn’t see the whole of the specter to recognize the danger moving toward me, however. Yes, we’d met before, this devil and I, and standing in the open left me no corners to duck behind, no trees to climb, no houses in which to seek shelter. Nay, I knew even then that I must face the demon head-on lest it attack me from behind as I ran away.
I hunkered against thicket, my breathing shallow, my heart slamming against my chest. A tear scoured my cheek. Already I wept, afraid of the destruction taking shape before me. The terror of terrors left a swath of devastation as it approached, tufts of grass thrown with little effort, wads of soil streaking through the sky, wildflower stems dismembered and left for dead. I knew I would be next.
Then I sneezed. An unexpected sneeze, an uncontrolled declaration of my presence and position. And in response the leviathan stood upright, its deadly front talons held together like Death’s own scythe, carnage still clinging to the face that just moments before had devoured yet another life.
I cried out. Tears streamed down my face as I begged for mercy. My quaking rattled me from head to toe. I stared into the beasts eyes and it stared into mine.
In that moment I faced my death again.
Much to my surprise, the grave digger did not leap through the air and rip me into bite-sized tasty morsels. On the contrary, it returned to its search for prey, its digging and heaving, its unburying of that which was buried.
When finally it pushed its face into the earth to suck life from one more creature, I knew it was my chance. I crawled away on all fours, scampering like a whipped dog, always looking over my shoulder to see if The Beast pursued me.
I reached my car and scrambled for the keys. Clawing at the door, fumbling with the handle, finally making my way inside, I slumped into the seat and wallowed in abject fear. The vehicle lurched with my shaking.
I don’t remember how long I stowed myself away in that locked car, glancing out the window, expecting to see The Beast coming toward me. Easily it could topple the vehicle, rip away its metal sheath, drag me from its protection and back to the trail where it would devour my soul. All I remember is the grip of dread, the inability to function, the want for a quick end.
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 All photos are of an adult nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus).
 Like the entry linked to at the beginning of this story, this post is meant in jest. Armadillos are docile creatures. As I mentioned in the comments on my entry from 2008, the only threat they pose is to your landscaping (though attempting to touch or handle one can be problematic as they can do damage with their claws, exceptionally powerful tools used for digging at high speed through surface material).
 I said in the cold snake post that this was the friendliest armadillo I’d ever met. That’s true. When the armadillo finally came to the edge of the trail, it nuzzled my foot aside so it could dig where I was standing. Unfortunately its position rested inside the minimum focusing distance of the 400mm lens I was using. That lens requires at least 1.8 meters/5.9 feet to focus on a subject. With the armadillo at my feet, the end of the lens would have to be at eye level and the camera itself would have to be well above my head in order to get a photograph. (Because of its nearness, I chose not to move around too much at that point lest I frighten the animal.)
 Though I really wanted clear photos of the critter, it never entered the trail. Instead, it remained in the tall flora alongside the path. Since the wildlife refuge is not meant for people but instead is meant for the security and health of native plants and animals, leaving the trail never occurred to me as an option. (In my opinion, being at a refuge is being a guest in someone else’s home—namely that of plants and animals—hence as a guest I should have as little an impact as possible on the goings on.) Also, my non-interference rule with nature kept me from trying to force the animal into the open. It was a gift to see it, to watch it, to have it pushing me out of the way so it could feed, so it would have violated all I hold dear about nature for me to be rude and try to bend its behavior to my will.
 Armadillos are in fact covered by bony armor (more accurately, a layer of bone just below the skin). This makes them difficult prey for other animals.
 Armadillos can move at surprising speeds when frightened, they can swim quite expertly, and they can even walk underwater for up to six minutes. Another tactic armadillos will use to escape threats is digging a quick burrow, a process that happens so rapidly that predators have difficulty interfering with or stopping the escape. It also leaves the armadillo’s tail moving about in the open while the critter digs, something that might serve as a diversion. Note this individual lost a good chunk of its tail:
That probably happened while it focused on digging and its pursuer tried to stop it. If you follow the first link in this post, you can see how long their tail can be compared to their body size, so the individual here lost quite a bit of material before making good its escape.
 Despite looking like a giant roly-poly (or pill bug or doodle bug or whatever you like to call woodlice in the family Armadillidiidae [note the family name!]), most armadillos can’t roll into a ball for protection. Only two of the twenty or so known species can do that: the southern three-banded armadillo (Tolypeutes matacus) and the Brazilian three-banded armadillo (Tolypeutes tricinctus), the latter of which likes to wait until it’s touched before it slams its armor shut (thought to be done in hope of frightening the attacking predator). The ability to roll into a ball is limited in all other species by the number of bony plates they have.