The Dark Side of Armadillos

Photo from Wikipedia

Armadillo – Photo from Wikipedia

Since we are home and out of camping mode for a while, I had decided I probably wouldn’t do another post for a while.  But a fellow blogger gave me an idea for one today.

I have been following the Turn When the Road Does blog.  He posted a photo of a resident armadillo at his campsite at Ft. Pickens.

I posted a lighthearted comment advising him not to go fixin’ any armadillo stew because armadillos can carry leprosy.

Several years ago I had read that armadillos were susceptible to leprosy, could be carriers, and that researchers were using them to study the disease.

Since it was news to him, I did a web search and found this CNN article written in 2011.  It states that up to 15% of our southern armadillos may carry leprosy, and it is transferable to humans.  Here are a couple of quotes from the article:

The armadillo population in the U.S. has been estimated at 30 to 50 million, and studies suggest that, in some places, up to 15 percent have leprosy.

For now the infected animals are concentrated in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama, but the armadillo population appears to be spreading north and east and could bring leprosy with it.

….

He urges his patients not to touch, handle, or eat the animals, and to steer clear of souvenirs made from armadillo carcasses, which are popular in Texas. The new study should help raise awareness, he says.

When he tells his patients that armadillos cause leprosy, he explains, “They kind of look at me like I’m crazy.”

Although armadillos are generally not aggressive and will run from anything that frightens them, I did run into a group of them that I felt threatened by a few years back when I was hiking on Cheaha Mountain in Alabama.  Several of them were in the trail ahead of me in a semicircle chattering excitedly at me.  I stomped my feet and yelled at them and they scattered.

So I am not afraid of armadillos, but I also make it a point to keep a safe distance from them.

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