Halloween just wouldn’t be spookacular without spiders, owls, toads, bats, and other creatures of the night. But how did these specific animals make the cut?
First, they fit the part with their dark colors. Before we had porch lights to welcome trick-or-treaters and street lights to guide their way, night-time was much darker than we can imagine now. Dark animals, from ravens to rats, were hard to see and could easily surprise.
Owls have also been a symbol of doom and gloom throughout history. Ancient Roman senators and Medieval knights alike believed witches could turn into owls. Across time and cultures, an owl’s screech has been considered a warning of death. Like owls, toads, especially the poisonous kind, have long been associated with witchcraft of the “double, double toil and trouble” variety.
Today, we have a better understanding of the cast of Halloween animals than ever before, thanks to conservation research. We now have scientific proof that these animals are actually very important to the environment.
Frogs, for example, are a critical part of the forest ecosystem, living with salamanders and other amphibians in vernal pools. Amphibian populations have been declining worldwide for nearly two decades, and conservation research seeks to understand why and reverse the trend. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) has awarded a research grant to Nature Conservancy Canada with the aim of preserving biodiversity in vernal pools throughout the Kenauk Canada nature property, which spans 65,000 acres (26,000 hectares) west of Montreal.
Bats are also ecosystem must-haves. We need them to eat large quantities of insects that are harmful to agriculture, and we rely on them to aid in pollination and seed dispersal. Bats are so critical to forest health, they are considered a key indicator. SFI has also awarded a grant to Nature Conservancy Canada to support research geared to saving the white-nosed bat population in British Columbia. The population has declined dramatically due to a disease called “White Nose Syndrome,” a fungus that humans help spread by disturbing bat hibernation sites. Now, that’s scary.
This Halloween, take a moment to consider the environmental side of the things that go bump in the night and how they help sustain us for many Halloweens to come. To learn more about wildlife conservation, sustainable forestry, and independent, non-profit SFI, visit sfiprogram.org.