By BROOKE WANSER
Have you noticed the uptick in bludgeoned armadillos scattered by the side of the road?
You’re not alone.
Jeff Meltzer, the owner and operator of Franklin’s Wild Things Wild Life Removal for 30 years, said the first call he received about an armadillo was eight years ago.
“I thought the woman thought it was a possum,” he said. “She goes, ‘No I’m from Texas, dammit, I know what an armadillo looks like!’”
“I just thought it was a fluke,” he said.
But in recent years, the hard-shelled relatives to anteaters have been appearing more and more in the Tennessee region, far from their traditional Texas, Arkansas, Georgia and Florida homes.
Williamson Inc. President Matt Largen was used to seeing armadillos during his childhood in Arkansas.
But after moving to Middle Tennessee nearly 15 years ago, Largen said he noticed the critter had followed suit.
“I used to think their diet consisted of asphalt,” he said, “Because I saw so many dead on the side of the road.”
Meltzer said armadillos, which are “virtually blind,” are often seen dead at roadsides after being startled by oncoming cars.
“They’ll jump three feet in the air,” he said, into traffic.
According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s website, the armadillo population is also on the rise, with an increase in spread from west to east.
Nine-banded armadillos are also the only mammal to carry leprosy bacillus, a concern in recent years. Meltzer said some armadillos carry it on the bottom of their feet.
Though the likelihood of transmission is low, Meltzer said he uses gloves to handle them, and a special, extra strong trap to catch them.
Meltzer hypothesized that the animal spread has occurred because of overpopulation and development throughout the country.
“With all the development that’s going on all over the country, they’re just losing a habitat,” he said.
Read more about the armadillo on the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency website.