FROM ZOO TO YOU Creepy creatures unique ways

By Julianne Turner

As we approach the spookiest time of year, you might start to see some of the world’s “creepy creatures” pop into the decorations around town. Bats and spiders make their way into the spotlight around Halloween. But what makes people consider some animals like these scary?

One reason is that many of these animals look different from our average dogs or cats. Spiders have a lot of legs: some would argue they have too many. Snakes don’t have any legs, which is rather strange to those of us used to animals walking as their form of movement. Bats have wings, strange facial features, and sometimes sharp teeth that can look intimidating. Animals that are furry, have four legs, and expressive features are often thought of as cute and normal. Species with features that don’t fit those can easily be labeled by some as scary.

Another reason some animals may be viewed as something undesirable is because they might be dangerous. Some snakes are venomous and able to make people sick with a single bite. But this isn’t true for every species. Truthfully, very few snakes are venomous or pose any danger to humans. However, since most people are not experts at identifying every individual snake they see, the fear transfers to all snakes.

While there are quite a few animals that various people might be afraid of, they are all important to our environment and ecosystem. We might not want them around us or our homes, but they do important jobs in nature. Let’s look at snakes, for example. Snakes have no legs and spend their entire lives slithering on their stomachs. This makes them the perfect shape and size to fit into holes in the ground and catch rodents. Without snakes, there would be a lot more mice and rats in the world.

Not only can rodents carry diseases that affect people, but they also eat a lot of plant material. Snakes help balance the rodent populations and keep ecosystems healthy.

Bats also play important roles as natural pest control. By eating bugs, they help ensure a balanced ecosystem by maintaining healthy population numbers. One bat can eat as many as 8,000 insects each night. If you multiply that by the number of bats that live together in a colony (anywhere from 100 to 1,000) that’s a lot of bugs being kept away from you and me!

While each of these animals looks a bit different and might make some people feel a little uneasy, they are all very important to our natural world. So the next time you see a “creepy” creature, we hope you think about all of the good things it does for the earth and realize it is not so scary after all.

Julianne Turner is the guest engagement coordinator at Lee Richardson Zoo.

Turner