What's bugging your garden? Most people consider bugs the main garden problem but until you have had varmints of some type you really haven't had a garden problem. Varmints are any critters that are not in the insect family, are warm blooded (even though they may seem cold-blooded sometimes!) and damage or destroy produce.

Varmints are sneaky devils! Sometimes they disguise themselves as "cute" or precious. Some even get themselves designated as state mascots. Some folks even spend hard-earned money to buy feed to attract varmints--the varmints eat the free food then finish the garden off for dessert.

My first varmint encounter was with an armadillo, or should I say, a family of those armor-plated bulldozers. I always thought armadillos were cute little rascals on the beer ads and scampering across the highways and byways of Texas. Then the drought came. A local armadillo family decided that my watered lawn would be easier to dig in than the hard, dry soil of the wilds. They were right and soon my landscape began to resemble Swiss cheese. Those devils are either mighty hungry or love to dig! If landscape beauty is to be preserved something has to be done. Of course I am the sort of fellow that likes to discover the silver lining of any situation so I got out all of my possum recipes from Tennessee. After all, if armadillo cannot be considered as possum-on-the-half-shell I don't know why! Tennessee possum stew is a delicacy of the truly blessed and is thought to be responsible for the superior intelligence and warm personality of those folks who originate in Tennessee and other possum-loving states. I guess armadillo chili is good enough for Texans.

Anyway I thought that I had solved the "problem" until my neighbors and family logged formal protests. My neighbors didn't want to install bullet-proof glass to protect themselves during my armadillo safaris. The armadillo is active primarily from twilight hours through early morning hours in the summer. I found that 2 a.m. is the prime time. For some reason neighbors quickly lose their sense of humor when gun shots pierce the morning silence. The neighbors changed their minds the instant the "cute" armadillos began to lust after their lawn instead of mine. A few hundred holes in one's lawn can quickly transfer a flaming liberal conservationist into a blood-lust killer. My family on the other hand did not want to partake of the gourmet delight which I had planned and for which I risked life and limb going into the wilds of the backyard to procure. There is nothing more dangerous than a wounded armadillo! They related to me that armadillos can be infected by an organism that is thought to be the human leprosy bacterium, Mycobacterium leprae. I was not discouraged since poke salad greens are considered poisonous before cooked; I've eaten those for years! Yet even I lost a bit of appetite after field dressing my first prey; have you ever skinned a Volkswagon?

The armadillo has the ability to climb and burrow. However, a fence slanted outward at a 40-degree angle, with a portion buried, is a deterrent to their entrance. Unfortunately, there are no repellents known to be effective. Trapping may be the best solution. Armadillos can be captured in Havahart or Tomahawk traps. The best locations to set traps are along pathways to their burrows and along fences or other barriers where the animals may travel. If bait is to be used, use over-ripe or spoiled fruit. Other suggested baits are fetid meats or meal worms. Leftovers can be used but the danger exists of killing the trappee. However, some people report if you feed them leftovers long enough they may leave on their own accord! I can identify with that!

A word to the warning to those who think that an armadillo is easy to shoot or catch. The armadillo does have poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell. When those armored devils detect danger, they can shift their bodies from park to race before you can bat an eye or draw a bead! For this reason always cock your gun BEFORE closely approaching a docilely rooting prey. If he (or she) raises it's head and sniffs the air, you had better do what you're going to do or you will be glimpsing armadillo tail headed towards the brush before you can draw a breath! Also remember that when frightened an armadillo always runs straight for the hole. If you position yourself between the armadillo's present position and the home hole it will quickly dash towards you when frightened, allowing a better chance for a close encounter. You will have to decide the appropriate technique for this varmint's demise. Don't think that it will be easy. Even after you get rid of one there will be more on the way since female armadillos produce a litter of quadruplets each year. The litter is the same sex and appear identical since they are derived from a single ovum (egg). So if you have an armadillo invasion prepare yourself for a prolonged assault. You must choose the best technique for defense. Let your conscience be your guide.

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