Armadillo 1 : Trigger happy fool 0

August 4, 2015 • 8:45 am

by Grania

In Texas, of course. Because when an armadillo crosses your path, the first thing a Texan thinks of is: shoot it three times.

CBCNews has a story on a man  who had to be airlifted to hospital after he fired a .38 revolver at an armadillo in his yard and the bullet ricocheted back to hit him in his face.

Nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) from via Wikimedia.
Nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) from via Wikimedia.

Unfortunately the fate of the armadillo is unknown, for the sheriff on the scene couldn’t find any trace of it.

I hope the poor thing got away unscathed.

It’s worth noting the developmental reason why armadillo plates are so incredibly strong.  Wikipedia explains:

The armour is formed by plates of dermal bone covered in relatively small, overlapping epidermal scales called “scutes“, composed of bone with a covering of horn. Most species have rigid shields over the shoulders and hips, with a number of bands separated by flexible skin covering the back and flanks. Additional armour covers the top of the head, the upper parts of the limbs, and the tail.

Hat-tip: @OrAroundTen

79 thoughts on “Armadillo 1 : Trigger happy fool 0

  1. I can’t help thinking about Shirley MacLaine and Jack Black shooting at the armadillo in the movie “Bernie.” Set in Texas, of course.

  2. I used to do hand planting of pine trees down in Texas and Louisiana and we’d often run across the skeletons of armadillos (along with box turtles and snakes) that had been killed by the ground fires used to clear the pine plantations. Their skeletons look like something from another planet!

  3. I like the hashtag that’s often used with this story (I think it was ‘coyned’ by Ricky Gervais):


    1. I told my friend Walt (nickname Gator, @ 1:05 here at my favorite urban meat market, about that story. Before I’d even finished he said, “Was he white?” I presumed so. “Of course he was. You don’t ever hear about black people doing stuff like that. And another thing. All those people getting eaten by sharks…”

  4. Humm, I’m not saying the story is BS, but I would like to note that a single impact ricochet directly back to the shooter is VERY rare.

    The story doesn’t mention how much the police investigated to confirm the story and rule out other possibilities: wife shot him in the face, drug deal gone bad, fired the gun indoors (series of ricochets to lead back to shooter),etc.

      1. Yeah, my initial thought was that he probably shot the pavement, not the ‘dillo. Or maybe both, because a 180 degree ricochet is much more likely off of two angled surfaces; pavement -> armadillo -> face.

      2. Possibly. Almost always to get the bullet to return to the shooter would require at least 2 ricochets. A direct come backer is almost unheard of. People routinely shoot at steel plate targets all the time.

      3. A stone was my thought as well. This was no sharpshooter if he was using a revolver and fired twice before hitting something interesting. Much easier for some idiot to accidentally hit a stone with a pistol than to hit the armadillo. If the armadillo had been hit, it would have suffered very serious damage due to changing the momentum of that bullet, even if the bullet didn’t penetrate.

        1. Good point. People wearing Kevlar vests apparently often suffer broken ribs or other internal damage.

              1. Second ricochet -probably- wouldn’t be a stone or anything else on the ground.

                First ricochet -probably- wouldn’t be a stone either unless it was embedded in the ground or otherwise fixed in position.

              2. Why do you think that? There is a lot of very stony and rocky ground in Texas. I lived there for many years and it doesn’t seem at all improbable that both ricochets were stones.

              3. “Why do you think that? There is a lot of very stony and rocky ground in Texas. I lived there for many years and it doesn’t seem at all improbable that both ricochets were stones.”

                Because one ground based ricochet is unlikely to lead to a second ground based ricochet, and two ground based ricochets are unlikely to lead back to the shooter.

            1. In my opinion, the most parsimonious explanation is that the guy is lying to some extent. A ricochet off a stone on the ground is -very- unlikely to send the bullet back to the shooter. One can devise all sorts of physical scenarios where the bullet ends up coming back to the shooter’s face via one or more ricochets, but they all require adding complexity that isn’t necessary in a scenario where he is lying about he wife or drug dealer shooting him in the face and him lying about it.

    1. Even more likely: the armadillo caught the bullet in its teeth and spit it back at the guy. Little-known fact, but that’s what the tough little buggers are capable of.

      It’d be a good public service to warn all those gullible Texans about this. They should be aware that they’re likely to die if they mess with armadillos.


  5. I’d never kill the critters because I love them too much, but they are a real nuisance for home-owners here in Texas.

    They dug 3-6″ deep holes all over our yard along the treeline looking for food (insect/larva). For me, that meant turning an ankle pretty hard while mowing. For horses, it can result in pretty dangerous injury to animal and rider. They also tear up gardens and flowerbeds.

    Other than the sprain risk, I consider them a perk of Texas country living (I lived on 10 acres out of town). We used to take the kids out with a flashlight and try to spot the critter by the glowing eyes. Other joys of Texas country living: rattlesnakes, scorpions, bobcats, white-tailed deer and wild turkeys.

    1. That doesn’t make them much different than groundhogs in the east. Every year, our family has to catch and ‘export’ a family or so. Probably every area of the country has one or more hole-digging critters. That’s just part of life.

      IMO its fine to complain about some really rare natural event or species invasion happening to you (the rhetorical you, not you concordance). But if you complain about the completely expected and every day occurrences of nature, you’re just whining. It reminds me of people in California moving way out into the boondocks and then complaining that bobcats ate their pets. Well, you moved into their territory. They’ve been living there for thousands of years. What else did you expect?

      1. Well, I admire you for exporting the groundhogs rather than killing them, which I hate. After all, they’re just doing what they evolved to do, and to me that doesn’t warrant extermination. I can barely bring myself to slap a mosquito.

        1. My love of nature falls to its nadir when I consider mosquitos. I’m sensitive to their saliva and get systemically ill if I get more than a few bites. Would the world suffer if they went extinct?

          1. IIRC, Torbjörn once posted a link to a study in which someone had studied the matter and concluded “no!”

            1. I’d be skeptical of such a conclusion. Mosquitoes are a major source of food for certain charismatic species of bats and a number of different kinds of fish. Maybe some less-nasty species of fly would fill the niche left behind by mosquitoes, but we haven’t exactly had a good track record with that sort of thing historically.

              If you’ve got an excess of mosquitoes, the best way to look at it is that you’ve got a deficiency of bats and you should look to establishing a local colony. And if the mosquitoes are breeding in water bodies bigger than puddles, those water bodies need (native!) insect-larvae-eating fish introduced into them.


              1. I had the same reservations.

                We have plenty of both bats & mosquitos–I’m the person who watched 60 bats come out of her chimney one night, remember? (After they migrated we–somewhat reluctantly–had the chimney fixed to prevent entry.)

                If you think mosquito control is easy, please come spend a late summer in the hot & humid NE. And you probably don’t know what it’s like to live in an area where wetlands, esp. large marshes, are plentiful.

              2. I’ll certainly grant that there’s likely no good solution for mosquito control in rural wetlands and marshland environments. But most people don’t live in those sorts of areas, and many of those who complain of mosquitoes live places where most mosquitoes breed in untended swimming pools and pet water dishes and discarded tires and the like…and bats are frequently considered pests in such areas.

                Shame you didn’t get a chance to put up a large bat house to replace the one in the chimney…once I finally get a chance to turn my attention to gardening and similar stuff, some sort of bat house is going to be on the short list. But that’ll require, of course, other bat-friendly features like a good source of water, and it won’t be easy to find a good spot at my place with respect to temperature and elevation and isolation…but I really want to make my place a nice home for bats….


              3. I don’t think he’s ever been within 100 feet of one…you do occasionally see them in the neighborhood at dusk, but they’re not a common sight and not the sort of thing that I think would be on his radar.

                I suspect that, given the chance, he would try but fail to catch one…those little buggers are lightning-quick and turn unpredictably erratically on a dime, and likely smart enough to get well away from a cat once spotted. They’re awfully shy of humans at the least….


              4. We have a bat house, but now it’s in the basement. There are just too many more attractive bat quarters here–old snags, unused out-buildings, abandoned houses and silos…

                I can see where you’ll have to go the extra mile in urban Arizona. 🙂

              5. Must be nice — for both you and the bats.

                Rumor has it that there’s actually a sizable colony a dozen miles away reminiscent of the famous one under the bridge in Austin. The one here is in one of the irrigation canals near 40th Street and Camelback. I only recently learned about it…and I’ve had limited transportation options that have kept it off limits (not to mention the 110°F+ heat we’re still dealing with). But hopefully soon, and quite possibly regularly….


              6. And I was hoping Torbjörn would see this and re-post the link. Too lazy to search for it myself. 😉

              7. @ Merilee–Snags are standing dead trees. Many of the ones around here are mostly hollow inside–heartwood rot.

              8. @Diane. That’s what I guessed about snags, but wasn’t sure. We’ve got plenty around here, especially after last year’s ice storm.

              9. And I always thought SNAGs were Sensitive New Age Guys.

                Not that I’ve ever been in danger of being mistaken for one…


        1. Aw, I loved that, thanks for the link!

          By the way, Bill Bryson has written a most entertaining book about Australia.

            1. I’m sure you’ll love it once you get around to it. (I’m purposely not using the word “if”…:) )

      1. When I saw my first armadillo after moving to Texas years ago, I tried to catch it. We raced each other and it got to its hole first. But as soon as its head was in the hole, it stopped!!!! I grabbed its tail, but its legs are really strong and it pulled itself out of my grasp and into its hole.

        1. That’s a great armadillo story! I have only had this happen trying to catch garter snakes. Some snakes are surprisingly strong for basically a tube with no limbs. I’ve had to let them go in fear I would hurt them.

    2. Even worse, armadillos carry leprosy. There are a handful of human infections in Florida each year due to contact with infected armadillos.

        1. Leprosy is very hard to catch, it’s not very contagious, for six people in Florida to catch it from handling armadillo’s thousands of armadillo’s must have been molested. Gee, it’s hard to believe that many armadillos’s were found, and that they held still long enough for people to molest them.

    1. They are like bats and some rodents and such like, cute at a distance… Fish can also be nasty that way.

  6. “In Texas, of course. Because when an armadillo crosses your path, the first thing a Texan thinks of is: shoot it three times.”

    Not all of us. A few Texans are actually relatively sane.

  7. The good news is that, like many other species, the armadillo range is expanding to the north so that soon more people can enjoy them. Like raccoons, they just don’t seem to get it that crossing the street is no time to dawdle.

    1. They are well into southern Illinois. We had already seen them in Kentucky (Land Between the Lakes) this spring, but saw a few near Rend Lake later on.

    2. I hope armadillos come to Canada. Possums have but many end up with frost bitten tails in the winter.

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