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Halloween creatures aren’t so scary

I’m sure if you’ve done your Halloween shopping and decorating, like I have, you have noticed there is a theme of “creepy” critters associated with Halloween, like spiders, rats and even vultures. I am here to tell you why there’s no need to fear these animals, especially during the scariest time of year!

With eight eyes, eight legs, webs everywhere, and coincidentally appearing in your home where we don’t want them to, it’s understandable that spiders can sometimes be “spooky.” Just remember that spiders serve an important role in our environment, and that’s pest control! Smaller spiders build their webs to catch insects like mosquitos. Larger ones, like the Chilean rose-haired tarantula, will eat mice. The Chilean rose-haired tarantula males will also put on a little “dance” to impress females! And who doesn’t love a little dancing during Halloween?

Did you know that rats bathe themselves multiple times a day? We might think of them as being dirty, but rats are very clean animals! Just imagine after every meal, snack, or even piece of Halloween candy, taking a shower immediately following. That’s all part of a normal day for a rat! Minus the candy of course. Rats are also very intelligent animals. Here at Zoo Atlanta, our Norwegian roof rats participate in voluntary kenneling sessions, target training, and run along rat-sized ramps in our presentations at Amy’s Tree Theater and the World of Wild Theater. Humans have also successfully trained rats to utilize one of their best senses to help people, and that’s their sense of smell! Some species have been trained to sniff out and alert to trainers the locations of landmines. Other species have been trained to smell and detect illnesses in people.

Thanks to movies and TV, vultures are easily associated with death and disease, but in a negative way. Vultures should be known for death and disease in a positive way! Vultures are some of Nature’s best cleanup crew because they eat dead stuff. They fly high in a circle above a deceased carcass, which lets vultures of all types know there is a feast on the ground below. Hooded vultures, like Baobab, are some of the last to feast. If you have seen any of the vultures at the Zoo, you will have noticed that they have long, slender beaks. These beaks allow them to eat the smaller and harder-to-reach bits of food that larger vultures, like lappet-faced vultures, miss due to having larger beaks Thanks to the strength of the vultures’ stomach acid, they can eliminate various diseases from the environment that can harm people. These diseases include botulism, cholera, anthrax and rabies. The next time you see vultures flying around, it’s not an omen – just dinner and disease prevention time!

Next year when you are looking at those “creepy critter” Halloween decorations, just remember how awesome, intelligent and helpful these animals truly are!
Emily Bobal
Swing Keeper, Ambassador Animals

(Photo by David Stemple)

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