Five Spooky Creatures at Dartmoor Zoo
Friday 28th October 2016 at 4:59pm by Rachel Franklin
The barn owl was believed to be a bad omen in years gone by. It has a chilling scream, which comes from nowhere as they fly silently through the night. There is an association between owls and witches in many cultures, Old Greek and Roman superstitions claimed that witches could turn themselves into owls and swoop down to feed on the souls of the dying. In modern Japanese culture, owls are quite significant, many Japanese people commonly carry an owl charm for luck and protection. It's not only in Japan that owls have cultural significance. Owls have been associated with magic, wisdom, and heightened senses throughout history, from ancient Greece to Asia and America. Plains Indians wore owl feathers to protect them from evil spirits, and in Middle Eastern cultures, the owl was seen as a sacred guardian of the afterlife.
The werewolf is a frequent star of Halloween tales, where they are both powerful and fearsome. Wolves are very often associated with these mythical creatures. Interestingly, wolves are quite shy in nature, and will often go out of their way to avoid humans.
Spiders are notoriously spooky and scary! Many people are terrified of spiders, with over 50% of women and 18% of men suffering from arachnophobia. This makes it one of the most common phobias. The spooky selection of spiders at Dartmoor Zoo include the Chilean Rose and Brazilian Black tarantula. Although they have horrible teeth and a venomous bite, they haven’t been known to cause any fatal injuries to humans and are in fact an important animal in the life cycle on Earth. By eating the bugs that can destroy crops, spiders serve an important function in many ecosystems, spiders are also prey for other animals, further adding to their ecological importance, and spider silk is potentially useful to humans as a material.
Again, scorpions have a notoriously bad reputation. They have eight legs, pincers and a scary tail with a nasty sting. However, they aren’t usually aggressive, and rarely sting humans, unless provoked. Our Imperial scorpion, here at the zoo is called Ralph, and although he looks quite scary he is usually friendly!
Although they look adorable, the red fox, like owls, are known for their chilling screams. In a past study of urban foxes there are two distinctive calls they are known to make, mainly during the winter mating season. The short and explosive “scream” is a warning shout to rival males and the “shriek” is a little more complex, used by both sexes but mainly the female to attract mates.