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Armadillo Roadkill Surprises Wisconsin Drivers

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Photo: Robert Nunnally

While driving through the lush forests and countryside of Wisconsin, you expect majestic vistas, complete with wildflowers, rivers, and the occasional deer. However, a Wisconsin motorist got quite the surprise while driving eastbound on Route 56 towards Richland Center — he found a flattened armadillo on the side of the road.

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Wildlife officials confirmed that armadillos are rare in the Badger State, with only one or two reported sightings every year. These animals are almost certainly wayward travelers — Wisconsin’s winters are far too harsh for armadillos to endure. Since they don’t hibernate, store up fat, or grow dense fur, they’re ill-equipped to survive the Northwoods.

Why did the armadillo cross the road?

Although armadillos are associated with the American Southwest, these surprisingly mobile creatures have spread throughout the country. Based on this flattened armadillo’s location, the closest documented armadillo population can be found in southern Illinois.

Although nobody knows how this ill-fated critter made its way to Wisconsin, speculation abounds. It could’ve been brought north as a pet, or it may have hitched a ride beneath a semi.

However, it could have walked, too. These animals can move quickly, eat a huge variety of bugs, and have few natural predators — largely thanks to their ability to roll into a hard-shelled ball. It just gets weirder from there — the armadillo can hold its breath for six minutes, and is capable of inflating itself to float down rivers. In other words, it’s a shockingly versatile armored rat-looking thing.

Roadkill research

If you find an armadillo in an unexpected habitat — like in Wisconsin, Ohio, or Michigan — contact your local Department of Natural Resources. Roadkill data helps researchers track the spread of invasive species.

Be careful when handling armadillos — whether they’re dead or alive. Around 20 percent of these armored mammals carry M. leprae, better known as leprosy. Specifically, it’s the same strain that infects humans in the Southern U.S., indicating that it’s been passed from the animals to humans. How could this happen? Well, some people eat armadillos and fashion their shells into accessories. When it comes to staying healthy, it’s best to play it safe — and leave the armadillos by the side of the road.

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Sources: WMTV, LaCrosse Tribune, WXPR