by Hannah Schardt
Do hairy tarantulas and bloodthirsty bats creep you out?
If they do, you aren’t alone. But you can relax: These animals aren’t so spooky once you get to know them.
OK, so you may not want to snuggle up with them—or with the other scary-looking animals on these pages. But you don’t need to fear these creatures, either. You'll see.
I VANT TO SUCK YOUR BLOOD!
There’s no denying it: The vampire bat of Central and South America DOES bite animals with its supersharp
fangs. And it DOES slurp up blood for every meal. But it takes only enough blood to feed itself—never enough to harm its prey. (Like other bats, though, it may carry diseases such as rabies.)
Rearing back and waving its long, hairy front legs in the hair, this Texas brown tarantula looks downright threatening. But that sinister pose is just a way to scare off an animal that might want to eat it. Unlike
some spiders, this palm-sized tarantula is no threat to you—or to anything bigger than a grasshopper! In fact, Texas brown tarantulas are so gentle that people often keep them as pets.
TIME TO UNWIND.
If you know snakes, you probably know that the red, yellow, and black coral snake has a deadly bite. But before you turn and run from the snake above, take a closer look. It’s a harmless faker: the scarlet king snake. This colorful snake isn’t venomous and would rather slither away than bite you. To tell the difference, remember this rhyme: Red touches yellow, kills a fellow. So if the snake’s red stripes are surrounded by black, you’re in the clear.
IS THAT A SKULL STARING UP AT YOU?
Not really—it’s a teeny-tiny jumping spider. Many jumping spiders have patterns that look like faces on top of their bodies. And this spider’s “face” looks positively spooky! As long as you aren’t an insect or other small spider prey, though, you have nothing to fear.
EVER GET THE FEELING YOU'RE BEING WATCHED?
A California condor’s wrinkled face and cloak of black feathers may send shivers down your spine. But the condor is harmless—and not just to humans. The huge bird feeds only on the bodies of animals killed by something else. There aren’t many California condors left because, for many years, people shot and poisoned them.
With its long, spindly fingers, this aye-aye looks like a supervillain plotting an evil plan. But the big-eared African primate is nothing to fear. It uses its superlong middle finger to dig grubs out of trees. So what looks scary to us is just right for the aye-aye!
They’re bloodsucking or wrinkly, slithery or hairy. But once you get to know them, these creatures aren’t scary!
This article originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of Ranger Rick magazine. Click here for a close-up view of the photos.