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By VINCE LUECKE
PERRY COUNTY – The News has had its share of front-page wildlife stories over the past couple of years. First were reports of wild dogs that some residents said were part wolf. Then came confirmed sightings of bobcats and rumors, thus far unconfirmed, of mountain lions in the area. Now there’s an armadillo.
A dead armadillo, complete with its bony shell, long snoot, stripes and pointy ears, was found dead near Leopold Monday. Erin Rogier, who noticed the animal on her way to work, provided the photo to the News and other motorists took notice of the creature.
Gary Hay, who lives nearby, took a photo to E&E Guns and Sporting Goods while checking in a turkey he had bagged.
Owner Gary Esarey said it’s the first time he has heard a report of an armadillo in the county.
A few other counties, including Dubois and Gibson, have had one or two confirmed reports of armadillos in recent years. However, Perry County is apparently the farthest east the mammal has been found in the Hoosier state.
Armadillos, medium-sized mammals most active at night, are common in several central and southern U.S. states.
While seen at times in southern Illinois, the report of an armadillo in Perry County shows the animals continue to expand their range at a remarkable pace.
“I’d say the mild winters helped, “ said Indiana State University biology professor John Whitaker. An authority on small mammals and author of a paper on armadillos, Whitaker said the local critter, or its parents, likely originated in Illinois or Kentucky. Experts aren’t sure how far the animals range during their lifetimes.
“They’re more sensitive to cold and that’s been a limiting factor (in their migration northward)” he added.
While it’s possible someone picked up the animal on a trip and dumped it alongside the road to create a local buzz, the animal Hay found was intact and appeared to have been injured in the area of its head.
Someone later took the animal and conservation officers who heard reports of it could not find it.
Armadillos aren’t aggressive and eat mostly insects and while they can be nuisances when they burrow under or next to homes, they are often seen only at night.
Hay said he had noticed freshly dug holes near an outbuilding and figured it had been a groundhog.
Now, he’s not as sure.
“It may have been that armadillo” he said.