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Species Profile: Pichy Armadillo

Species Profile: Pichy Armadillo

(photo by Jonny Miller)

 

By Sarah Young (University of New Hampshire ’15)

 

Pichy Armadillo (Zeadyus pichy) is the only armadillo with a known range in Chilean Patagonia and the only member of the genus Zaedyus. The Big Hairy Armadillo, (Chaetophractrus villosus) has been sighted only anecdotally. This shelled mammal can be found from Valpraiso, to the Strait of Magellan, and Argentina. Its carapace is dark brown with a yellow edge and tail shield. Pale yellow hairs are located between plates and on the under parts. Mostly solitary and nocturnal, the Pichy hibernates in the winter in shallow burrows. In order to secure itself it digs the edges of its carapace into the ground. These burrows are often located in the open but at the base of a bush or shrub. The Pichy armadillo is an omnivore feeding on a variety of things including insects, carrion, small mammals, lizards and seed pods of the algarrobo tree. It is also hunted for its meat and shell. Due to their docile nature they are sometimes kept as house pets in rural areas.

While driving back from our second field site, I and four others spotted an armadillo on the side of the road. It was approximately 12 pm, on a sunny day. We got close enough to examine the individual which was generally small, approximately 13 inches long, with light hairs between plates and on the underside. The carapace was light brown with a yellow ring around the edge. It seemed to have larger claws, and the tail shield was not seen. Although we had a chance to thoroughly examine the individual, we could not confidently identify this as the Pichy Armadillo or the Big Hairy Armadillo.

I was extremely excited to get a chance to see the elusive armadillo. It was an especially interesting encounter because of the time of day, and because the identification was so difficult. In the end I decided as a personal account of identification, it was the Pichy Armadillo. In honor of this encounter I wrote a poem:

 

Ode to the Armadillo

When I saw you, I thought ‘shelled badger’

But now I know so much more

Oh Pichy….

I’m sorry I misidentified you as a big hairy armadillo

You were just so big….and hairy – or so I thought

I should have known better, you were far too cute

With that chocolate colored carapace, and golden yellow band

Your underside clearly wasn’t pink and you hairs were neither dark or long like the big hairy armadillo

Of all the other places you could have been: Valprasio, the Straight of Magellan, Argentina, the Andean grasslands, but there you were, in the Patagonian steppe

How lucky I felt to catch you on the rare occasion you were up and about in the day

And before your time of hibernation

But oh how the nights have been cold- I hope that you’ve managed to keep warm

Filling up on worms, carrion, small rodents, and lizards to keep you warm

It’s okay that you eat meat; we can still be friends-that is…

If you’re not swept away as a house pet, or worse…Someone’s dinner

The description of you in ‘A Wildlife Guide to Chile’ may be ambiguous- but my feelings about you certainly aren’t

In my heart I know it’s you Pichy, because nature exists outside a page with undistinguishable drawings

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