It’s the spookiest time of the year and the streets in Swift Current will be haunted by all kinds of frightening creatures tomorrow night.
For some southwest residents, however, Halloween is much scarier than for others.
The Nature Conservatory of Canada (NCC) is reminding people that while folklore and horror movies are fun, the villainous animals often depicted are deeply misconstrued.
From wolves to spiders, to owls and bats; these species that call our province home have stigmas that are harmful to their safety, which are heightened around the holiday that displays them as threats.
Conservation Science Coordinator for the NCC, Sarah Ludlow, said that the fear of these animals can get in the way of understanding their importance.
“I think there are lots of stereotypes or misconceptions that come about simply because people don’t understand the animals,” she said. “[People] maybe don’t see them very often because they’re nocturnal or live in more remote areas.”
One of the biggest myths, according to Ludlow, is that bats are blind—when in fact, they can see quite well despite using echolocation as a primary means of navigation.
Vampire-based media usually has a heavy presence of bats, and this can add to the idea that the flying mammals drink blood when in reality all 18 species in the country are insectivores.
“Another would be that they’re going to fly into your hair, for example,” she said. “They’re not going to do that. They have no interest in your hair. If anything, there might be insects that are attracted to your body heat above you, and they might fly to get those, but they’re very good at navigating and they’re very agile so the odds of them bumping into you are very, very low.”
Bats aren’t the only ones that get a bad rap, though, as owls are another creature folks in the area might see and fear.
Two species, in particular, are struggling to remain in the province: the burrowing owl and the short-eared owl.
“They look spooky because they have big, round eyes,” Ludlow said in a media release. “Their call is very haunting, and they are silent when they fly, which is kind of eerie and adds to that overall mystique.”
She added that owls are incredibly important to the Saskatchewan ecosystems, managing rodent populations and playing a key role in the forests. And yet, their populations are declining.
“In Saskatchewan, NCC has documented nine species of bats on 22 different properties, including the endangered little brown bat and northern long-eared myotis,” a media release read. “NCC has also documented five species of owls on 34 different properties across the province, including the endangered burrowing owl and threatened short-eared owl. Black widow spiders have been observed on the Zen-ridge property in southwest Saskatchewan. All three of these taxa (bats, owls and spiders) play key roles in the ecosystems they are found in, as well as benefitting humans by controlling other species typically considered pests.”
There is a total of 804 at risks species in Canada—which includes plants and animals that are in danger of becoming extinct. The Nature Conservatory of Canada currently works to protect and steward habitats for 236 of these species.