Halloween’s scariest wildlife


Meet some very scary backyard wildlife! 

Rose hair tarantula
TARANTULAS are not only scary-looking, but sometimes scary big! Would you want to meet one on a dark and stormy night? Or even a bright, sunny day? Probably not, but their bad reputation is undeserved. Tarantulas are reluctant to bite, and will retreat if possible (so just let them move away). If forced to bite in self-defense, it’s usually no worse than a bee’s sting. There’s no record of a human ever dying from a tarantula bite. They’re beneficial backyard wildlife that include sowbugs, pillbugs and other garden pests in their diet. They’re also a popular pet, but make plans for them in your Will — females can live 40 years! In the U.S., they’re backyard wildlife in the South and West. (photo of Rose hair Tarantula, Grammostola rosea: Smithsonian / Mehgan Murphy – cc by-nc-nd 2.0)   Learn more about spiders


Big Brown Bat in flight
BATS are evil and dangerous. With saliva dripping off razor-sharp teeth, they silently wait for us to step outdoors into the pitch black of night, so they can drain us of our blood. Or, at least, tangle themselves in our hair. Wait a second…we lovers of wildlife know that’s nonsense, don’t we? Bats are harmless, non-aggressive eaters of insects and fruit, with no interest in humans whatever. Mexico and South America have three blood-drinking bat species, but even those don’t target humans. Bats are very beneficial. Insectivorous species feed on such pests as mosquitos, gnats, flies and some of agriculture’s most damaging insects. A single bat consumes up to 6,000 insects per night! In a laboratory setting, Little Brown Bats gobbled up 600 mosquitoes per hour! Nectar eating bats of the Southwest help pollinate plants. Fruit eating bats in other parts of the world are vital to the continued existence of some crops. (photo of Big Brown Bat, Eptesicus fuscus: Angell Williams / Flickr – cc by 2.0)   Learn more about bats


Queen snake
SNAKES are slithery, alien-looking, always startling and the bigger they are, the scarier they are. But, did you know that almost all snakes in the U.S. are harmless to humans? Only three kinds are venomous and even those aren’t typically aggressive. In fact, all snakes are afraid of humans and just want to keep away from us. Of course, we don’t want venomous ones living too close to our houses, but snakes are beneficial in a backyard wildlife habitat, by helping to keep rodent populations under control. As for their constantly flicking tongue — snakes use their tongue to taste their environment. The scary-looking snake shown here is a harmless Queen Snake, Regina septemvittata, tasting whatever chemical molecules are in the air, including those of the human holding the camera. (photo: Patrick Coin / Wiki – cc by-sa 2.5)   Learn more about snakes 


Black vulture in flight
Have you ever seen VULTURES slowly circling a yard, even in the city? It can happen if they detect something interesting there. For a vulture, “interesting,” of course, usually means something dead or dying. They’re harmless to humans, but people fear them because they’re large predatory birds, they go about in large flocks, and they’re considered disgusting because they eat dead things, including roadkill. They’re also thought to spread diseases when, in truth, they help prevent them. If every wild animal that dies was left rotting on the ground, all the viruses, bacteria and other pathogens contained in them would be dispersed into the environment. Vultures eat all that and it’s gone for good. The U.S. has three: Black Vulture, Coragyps atratus; Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura; California Condor, Gymnogyps californianus. (photo of Black Vulture: Gregory Moine / Flickr – cc by 2.0)   Learn more about birds


Common striped scorpion
SCORPIONS are creepy, aren’t they? Just look at those claws. And that stinger looks seriously sharp. Isn’t it lucky, then, that scorpions aren’t aggressive! Their venom is meant to quickly immobilize prey and they don’t sting humans without provocation. In the U.S. there are about 50 species and not all of them sting. Those that do can deliver a painful experience. But only one is known to be (very rarely) fatal to humans. Scorpions are beneficial insects who feed on other insects, including plant pests and biting flies. (photo of Common Striped Scorpion, Centruroides vittatus: Sturgis McKeever, Georgia Southern University, Bugwood.org – cc by-nc 3.0)