Animals, especially the predators, can inspire a lot of fear. For example, I am terrified of spiders, even the itty bitty ones that spin tiny genteel webs in your house corners. To be fair, it’s at least mildly logical, considering the existence of things like black widows, (Which are RAMPANT in California, along with tarantulas and rattlesnakes) which are very poisonous, and also look very scary. They’re big and black and knobby and have a little red hourglass like YOUR TIME IS UP, MWAHAHAHAHA.
However, we’re also afraid of things like wolves, bats, and sharks, which are really not very scary but have been built up to terror-level by popular culture. After much research, I bring you this article: Why You Should Not Be Afraid Of These Three Animals.
Let’s start with wolves. In popular culture, wolves are vicious, man-eating creatures who run in packs and kill all of your sheep. There are even sayings: “The wolves are at the door” “You threw me to the wolves,” etc.
In reality, wolves are really very laid back. They have packs, usually consisting of an alpha, an alpha female, their kids, and a few aunts and uncles. No-one is allowed to mate but the alpha, because wolves can have up to ten pups and they can’t really sustain larger than that, and if only the alpha is allowed to mate, then, by process of natural selection, the children are the strongest possible. Older kids get put to babysit the littler kids, and wolves bring food back for the littlies in their stomachs, to be vomited up at will. They’re very family-oriented.
Wolves only hunt down the sick and injured moose and caribou, which are their favorite meals. They love those ungulates. (Ungulates are animals in the deer family, such as moose, elk, caribou, reindeer, deer, etc.) They do kill sheep at times, but, to be fair, it’s pretty easy to kill a sheep. It’s like ordering fast food. They’re fat and don’t run fast and don’t have massive horns and hooves to kick a wolf’s ribs in with.
Wolves rarely, if ever, kill humans. From 1952 to 2002, there were only eight fatal wolf attacks in Europe and Russia combined, three in North America, and 200 in Asia. (Which is still only 4 a year.) In comparison, approximately 120 people are killed by deer every year. Admittedly, this is mostly because deer are stupid and like to relax in the middle of roads, but it’s still an astronomical number compared to the 4 wolf attacks a year in Asia. As another comparison, there were 8 cannibalism trials in 2011. Ew.
Wolves are also essential to maintaining a healthy forest ecosystem. After wolves were driven out of a wildlife conservation park by concerned and upset farmers, the local elk population started multiplying exponentially. They consumed all of the grass and shrubbery, and started starving to death. The fox population, who scavenged wolf kills, started to die off, and other herbivores were deprived of food, and they started to die off as well. Hurriedly, the naturalists reintroduced a wolf pack, and by the next year, the elk population had evened out, the foxes were coming back, and the other herbivores were starting to flourish again.
Next up on the list is that dreaded, terrifying creature: the bat.
Bats get a bad rap, especially vampire bats. For the record, vampire bats are pretty rare. Only three species out of over two thousand are blood drinkers, and most of them much prefer things like pigs and cows. They also don’t suck blood: They slit open the skin with their fangs and lick up the blood that wells up to the surface. Most bats, though, eat insects, and the really big, scary, three-foot-tall ones only eat fruit.
Bats are good for getting rid of icky things like mosquitoes and spiders (*shudder*), so they’re generally good to have around. The only real risk from bats is rabies. Now, before you flip out, only one or two people die from bat rabies every year. You have a higher chance of contracting leprosy. It’s not that huge of a deal. As long as you’re not grabbing a sick bat with your bare hands, you should be fine. Even then, only 0.5% of all bats contract rabies.
Now, if your only problem is “Ew! Icky! It’ll fly in my hair!” then rest assured: Bats’ echolocation is very sophisticated. They can see your hair perfectly and have no desire to get stuck in it.
A few years ago an exhausted, alone bat landed in our apartment building, just chilling in the hallway, minding its own business. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, but some of the teenage girls across the way were not so savvy. They started throwing sticks at it. Sticks. Ugh. Little, angry eleven-year-old me threw a stick at them and started lying as hard as I could that bats were endangered and if you hurt one the police would come and give you a fine, but I am a terrible liar and the girls just laughed at me and kept doing it. I ran off to get Mom, and when I came back, I was just in time to see one of the sticks connect. WHOM! The bat’s wings stretched out, making it look three times the size, and it flew straight at the girls, lifting up to swoop silently over the girls’ heads at the last moment. There was a lot of screaming, and I started jumping up and down and cheering. Yeah. Love those bats.
Finally! Sharks, the silent, deadly hunters of the deep.
Contrary to popular belief, this is one of the least deadly animals on our list of “Animals You Should Not Be Afraid Of.” There are zero to one fatal shark attacks per year in the USA, and only 18 attacks total. Most attacks are cases of mistaken identity, where a shark, with its dim eyesight, comes across a human, automatically bites them, and then spits them out and swims away when the taste registers. There are a few attacks where the shark is actually hunting the humans, which are distinguished by the shark bumping the human with its nose and then circling around to bite. They’ll let go, circle around again, and bite once more. Those are the cause of most fatal attacks.
I’m not going to try to convince you that sharks are cute, or that if you see a shark you shouldn’t IMMEDIATELY start trying to get out of the water just in case, but if you’re afraid to go into the ocean, remember that 46,000 people were injured by toilets in 1996 and you aren’t afraid to go to the bathroom, now, are you? And there are some harmless sharks. Nurse sharks, for example, are very laid back and have mouths too small to take more than an ouchie-causing chunk out of you. Whale sharks don’t even have teeth. They’re huge, but their mouths are tiny and they eat by using a bellows in their stomach to create a vacuum to suck tiny fish into.
All right, that’s all for this installment of “Animals You Should Not Be Afraid Of.” Ciao.