Not Just for Kids
Halloween's Creepy Critters
Halloween has many animal mascots. There's probably one to make anybody's skin crawl. But they're not all bad. In fact, they're pretty good. Here's a sampling of what's good about five of Halloween's creepiest critters:
BATS get a bad rap from their fictional alter ego, Count Dracula. Though blood-drinking vampire bats do exist, they only get as big as a sparrow, rarely attack humans and live way down in South America.
The bats around our neck of the woods are called brown bats. These get as long as 512 inches and use their fang-like triangular front teeth for munching pesky insects, not humans.
There's also the fruit bat, which lives in the tropics. In South America, fruit bats fertilize about 95 percent of the rain forest by spreading seeds and pollen. Smaller bats, about three-quarters of an inch long, act like bees eating pollen and nectar from flowers.
Back in the Dark Ages, Europeans got the notion that cats were the favorite pets
of witches - animal versions of evil supernatural spirits. So nobody liked cats.
Black cats were considered more evil than the others because of their color.
Through the years, superstition surrounded the black cat, and even today people believe they're bad luck.
Of course, this isn't true; black cats are just as cuddly and lovable as any other domestic cat. Having one cross your path isn't bad luck unless you trip over it, so don't fret.
Through history, ravens have seemed bad omens warnings of bad things to come. Their heavy beak, pitch-black color and deep croaking call made for creepy images that people feared. Edgar Allen Poe even wrote an eerie poem about a raven check your local library.
Again, image isn't everything. Ravens eat dead animals and garbage, which makes many people think they're gross. But, in fact, eating dead stuff is a good thing; it keeps the environment cleaner. And the Brits have even more reason to love the bird; an old legend says that if the birds ever leave the Tower of London, all of Britain will fall. That's why they clip their wings.
Like ravens, vultures feed on dead animals. But these are way creepier because of their uglier looks.
Around here we see the turkey vulture, funky looking birds about 30 inches long with a six-foot wingspan, drab black feathers, naked, bumpy, red or black heads and a ghoulish sitting posture when they land to dine.
Though they may be ugly on the ground, vultures are
graceful and beautiful fliers. Like the raven, the vulture's gross eating habits mean
cleaner scenery and roadsides as they eat up road kill.
They're creepy and crawly and ugly and full of deadly venom and weave yucky webs that get all over you and won't come off after you walk through them.
All true, though some spiders look downright neat depending on your perspective. Spider webs are no fun to walk through, but they're even less fun for the pesky flies and mosquitoes they trap. And sure, all spiders have deadly venom in them, but in most it's only strong enough to kill insects, not people.
Another myth is that spiders are mean. In truth, they don't bite unless provoked and even the biggest and creepiest - like tarantulas - are quite timid and extremely fragile.
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VolumeVI Number 42
October 29 - November 4, 1998
New Bay Times
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