RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Recent rains and spring temperatures have armored creatures of the South Texas brush country roaming wildlands searching for sustenance and savoring a satisfying drink.

If you have been out in the ranch country or one of the Rio Grande Valley’s wildlife refuges, then you have likely encountered a Texas tortoise munching on vegetation or an armadillo digging for insects.

The only place in the United States where you can find a wild Texas tortoise is in the brush country of South Texas. They range southward in Mexico to the northern part of San Luis Potosi, but in the Lone Star State, they occur south of a line connecting Laredo to San Antonio and Rockport.

When disturbed, tortoises pull their heads into their hard, bony shells or carapaces and then flatten their heavily scaled forelegs over the opening to close the shell.

The back legs are round and stumpy resembling miniature elephant’s feet and are tucked in for protection.

The armadillo, translated from Spanish means little armored one. The armadillo is the official state small mammal and in recent decades has expanded its range to Oklahoma, Arkansas, and beyond.

While the Texas tortoise is able to completely secure its vulnerable extremities within its protective shell, the nine-banded armadillo does not actually roll up but rather scampers off if threatened.

However, the armadillo is an accomplished digger and will quickly disappear into cloaking chaparral and a handy burrow.

Tortoises also utilize burrows, and this venerable character is entering a favorite haunt, but not before extracting a few more shovelfuls of dirt.

Texas tortoises are protected and listed as a threatened species, while armadillos are classified as “non-game animals” and can be hunted on private property and are regarded by some as fine table fare.

However, armadillos are among the only animals known to carry leprosy, and for this reason, it is illegal to sell them in Texas.