10 Scary Animals That Are Totally Harmless

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Don't judge a book by its cover

Photo: Linn Currie/Shutterstock

The animal world is full of predators and nightmarish creepy-crawlies, but there are a few frightening creatures that don't deserve such a fearsome reputation.

Some of these scary animals might even make cuddle-worthy companions. (But keep in mind that an encounter in the wild could be a humbling encounter.)

Take a look at our list of scary animals that are perfectly harmless.

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Photo: javarman/Shutterstock

This gremlin-looking creature is a primate found in Madagascar. Aye-ayes have a number of unusual traits, including a long, bony, witch-like middle finger that they use to pry insects and grubs from tree trunks.

Perhaps due to their appearance, these gentle, harmless animals are often killed because of a local superstition that aye-ayes are harbingers of death. Some believe that if an aye-aye points at you, it's a death sentence.

None of this is true, of course. These primates are peaceful, nocturnal foragers.

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Basking sharks

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Seeing this shark's wide-open mouth bearing down on you might seem like a diving nightmare — until you realize it's just a basking shark.

Unlike their carnivorous brethren, basking sharks are filter feeders. They prefer the taste of zooplankton and couldn't chomp down on you if they wanted to. A diver lucky enough to encounter one of these elegant beasts may entice its playful curiosity; they are known to be tolerant of nearby boats and people.

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Vampire bats

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They suck blood, have ghoulish faces, live in dark caves and hollow trees, only come out at night ... and never transform into mysterious, seductive, well-dressed strangers with Transylvanian accents. But if you can look past all that, vampire bats have a certain charm.

Their diet is mostly blood, but they typically prefer to feed on cattle, goats or even birds. Human bites are rare — and entirely harmless. You'll hardly feel a thing.

Interestingly, vampire bats are the only bats that adopt their neighbor's young if something unfortunate happens to the bat's mother.

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Photo: Amikphoto/Shutterstock

Vultures are often demonized because of their frightening appearance, intimidating wing span and the inappropriate habit of only showing up when there's a dead carcass lying around, but they're completely harmless — as long as you're alive and kicking.

These scavengers have sharp beaks and razor-like talons, but they don't use these tools to kill prey. These birds are among the largest flying animals in the world. Watching a vulture soar above the world's mighty canyons can be a truly majestic experience.

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Goliath birdeater

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This gigantic, hairy spider is a tarantula native to the rain forests of South America. It's one of the largest species of spider in the world. It earned its name when it was first discovered devouring a hummingbird, though this spider prefers to dine on insects.

Despite the goliath birdeater's appearance, the size of its fangs and its reputation, this spider is entirely harmless and passive toward humans — as are the vast majority of tarantulas around the world. The spiders do have venom, but their bite would hardly compare to the sting of a wasp. In fact, spider enthusiasts around the world keep these creepy-crawlies as pets.

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Photo: Becker1999/flickr

A gharial looks like a crocodile in every respect except for its long, narrow snout. As a result these beasts are often thought to be man-eaters, just like their crocodilian cousins.

In reality, the gharial's thin jaws are fragile and incapable of consuming a large animal. Better adapted for hunting small fish, frogs and insects, gharials prefer to avoid people entirely.

Of course, you wouldn't want to place your finger inside its mouth, but aside from complete carelessness, these giant reptiles are totally harmless.

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Giant arachnids

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Despite often being referred to as camel spiders or wind scorpions, these giant arachnids aren't spiders or scorpions and instead inhabit their own distinct order, Solifugae.

They can grow to be several inches long, can run as fast as 10 mph. Many American and coalition military forces who encounter them in the Middle East tell stories of camel spiders with an appetite for human flesh. This urban legend is ridiculous, of course, and these creepy-crawlies are actually great for pest control because they prefer to eat other insects. (Still, a lightning-fast, 8-legged bug could prompt the inner arachnophobe in anyone.)

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Milk snakes

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These innocent serpents are famous for their biomimicry; they closely resemble the highly venomous coral snake. The costume is all an act to scare away potential predators.

In reality, milk snakes are completely harmless and can often tolerate being handled without showing much aggression. (Just make sure the snake you're handling is, in fact, a milk snake and not a coral snake!) It's best to remember this handy mnemonic, which clarifies the subtle differences in color patterns between the two species: "Red next to black is a friend of Jack; red next to yellow will kill a fellow."

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Giant African millipede

Photo: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/Wikimedia Commons

It's hard to imagine anyone cuddling up to this nocturnal monster, one of the largest millipedes in the world. In fact, the giant African millipede is kept as a family pet in many parts of the world.

These millipedes can grow to as long as 12 inches, can be nearly 4 inches thick and have 253 legs. (For people who love them, these characteristics are described as "cute".) These millipedes can live as long as 10 years, and despite their goosebump-inducing appearance, they are harmless.

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Manta ray

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The largest species of ray in the world, these magnificent beasts (often called "devilfish") can grow as large as 25 feet across and have the largest brain-to-body ratio of all sharks, rays and skates. They are gigantic, smart and probably the last thing you want to see emerge from the deep while you're swimming in clear tropical waters on vacation.

In reality, though, manta rays are gentle giants. Like many other mammoth fish in the sea, they are filter feeders that eat the smallest of prey. Unlike stingrays, manta rays don't have a stinger, so divers have nothing to fear.