Fact or Myth? The Animals of Halloween

Halloween is fast becoming a favourite holiday here in the UK, with many of us throwing parties, dressing up, playing games and enjoying delicious sweets and treats. It is also a holiday with lots of creepy wildlife associated with it; from toads, to bats, owls and spiders... but just how creepy are they? Let's have a sneaky peek into what these animals are really up to at this time of year; warning: this might dispel a few myths!

Bats: are they out for blood?

It's true – blood sucking Vampire Bats exist. They do not, however, feed on us mere mortals but instead prefer chickens and cows. They also only live in Latin America, using echolocation to find their prey as their eyesight is not great. I suppose they look scary because of their odd shaped face and beady red eyes. However, I think it's safe to say that these facial attributes do serve a purpose greater than evoking a fright; they help capture sound waves bouncing off prey and other objects and funnel those waves to the bat's ears.

Their presence is most notable at this time of year, again not because it is Halloween, but because it is the time of year when they enter into hibernation in caves or hollow trees.

Spiders: is there really a need to go into a blind panic?

Spiders, with their multiple limbs and eyes, are often the creatures of nightmares and seem to dominate the Halloween decoration isles. Their venomous fangs and frosty webs do not do anything for their street cred! Even though they might look scary, spiders are actually extremely beneficial predators of all sorts of insect pests and only a handful (in theory) in the whole World are considered strong enough to hurt people.

By Halloween, you'll see more spiders as males are searching for their mates and for the warmth of our homes, while female spiders are guarding egg sacks which hold the next generation.

Toads: will they give you warts?

Toads are not just for witches, they are important environmental indicators. More so in the States, you can tell whether you live in an unhealthy environment due its toad count! All amphibians are susceptible to environmental toxins because of their sensitive skin and are some of the first species to die out in polluted areas. If you have a healthy toad population, it's a good sign that your neighbourhood is fairly unpolluted.

You may be surprised to also hear that, no, you cannot catch warts from touching a toad. Whilst they are tenacious pest predators in the summer, they do deep into underground hibernation around Halloween and don't emerge until spring. So if you see a lot of toads around this 31st October, just remember that they are only seeking a comfy bed and not your fingers!

Wolves: the howls of a horror movie.

The howl of the wolf can cause heart-rending terror and stop us in our tracks, but they do not eat people! Whilst they may hunt larger prey, such as deer, our bony bods are not top of their food list!

Wolves seem to have been glorified throughout history and modern media, but the real life wild canines are neither hounds from hell or spiritual guides.

Snakes: pure evil?

Contrary to belief, snakes are not the devil in disguise, symbolic of hate and evil. They are, if anything, incredibly beautiful beings, ancient and agile. I guess many people fear snakes as they are decidedly non-human with their slithering, legless bodies, forked tongues and lidless eyes. The only time a snake will try to bite is if it is startled or feels threatened; instead, natural reaction of all snakes to people is to get away or hide.

So, now you know the truth about Halloween wildlife, ever thought about hiring an 'animal man' for your 31st October celebrations? It could be a HOOT of a night!