Scared? Don’t Be!

By Hannah Schardt; Art by Tom Richmond
Tap image for a closer view.

Picture this: You’re walking in the dark through a strange, spooky house. Suddenly something brushes against your arm. Aaaagh! Is it a ghost? A vampire? A zombie? Then you flip on a light. In the now-bright room, you see it was just a fluttering curtain. Now that you know, the house doesn’t seem scary at all. Certain animals are like that spooky house. They may give you a creepy feeling at first. But once you “turn on the light” and get to know more about them, you might not find them scary at all. In fact, you may decide some of them are downright lovable!

Yes, rats can be pests. And no, you shouldn’t befriend one you find in the street. But these rodents are smart, and tame ones make good pets. If you really want to get a warm and fuzzy feeling about rats, think about this: They are ticklish! Scientists have found that when rats are nice and relaxed, they love a good belly tickle. And while they’re being tickled, rats let out happy, super-high-pitched squeaking sounds—rodent giggles! Tee-hee!

There’s a lot to love about bats. Many kinds spread pollen from plant to plant, which helps make fruits and seeds. Other bats devour lots of insect pests.

And then there are vampire bats. These bats are small, but there’s no denying that they have something in common with Count Dracula. They eat nothing but blood! Vampire bats bite cattle or other large, grazing animals, then lap up the blood that oozes out. But they never take enough blood to hurt the animals they feed on.

And there’s a sweet side to these little bats. When a vampire bat mother dies or is unable to care for her baby, another mama bat may take in the orphaned baby as her own. That’s rare among wild animals. And among bats, it’s one of a kind!

Shark attacks get a lot of attention in the news. So you may be surprised to learn that most kinds of sharks would never, ever attack a person. Some are way too small. (The dwarf lanternshark, for example, grows to be only about as long as a grownup’s hand.) Others, such as the whale shark, are gentle giants that eat mainly tiny ocean creatures called plankton. But even the sharks that do hunt large prey almost never want to make a meal of a person. They’d much rather have a plump seal or fatty fish.

Tap image for a closer view.

A few years ago, scientists found that people are more scared of spiders than of any other animals. In fact, arachnophobia (uh-rak-nuh-FOH-bee-uh)—the fear of spiders—is so common that there was a movie made about it. (Ask your parents!) But, as with sharks, there really isn’t much to fear about spiders. Most spiders can’t even pierce a person’s skin with their tiny fangs. Even the few spiders with dangerous bites—such as the black widow and the brown recluse—are shy and would rather leave people alone.

And if you’re not a fan of mosquitoes, house flies, or other insect pests, remember this: Spiders eat lots of the insects that bug us. So the next time you see a spider in your house or yard, don’t scream or squish it. Say, “Thanks!”

If you read fairy tales, you might think that wolves are just about the most dangerous animals out there. But, unless you’re Little Red Riding Hood, these beautiful creatures are almost certainly no threat to you at all. Wolves are shy and avoid people. Even in places where both live, most people never catch a glimpse of a wolf.

More than 100 years ago, people killed so many wolves that the animals nearly disappeared from most of the United States. Wolves are starting to come back, but there aren’t nearly as many as there used to be. So we shouldn’t be scared of them. But they have good reason to be scared of us!

In books and movies, these big, black birds are often portrayed as tricky—or even evil. And if you look up at a bare tree in winter and see a flock of crows silhouetted against the sky, you might think they look spooky. But corvids—crows, ravens, and their cousins—are harmless to people. And they’re among the smartest birds on Earth. Some of them even use tools to get at hard-to-reach food!

Here’s something that might make you say “Aw!” about these caw-some animals. Unlike most birds, young crows often stay with their parents for a year or even longer. Even once they’re able to find food on their own, they help Mom and Dad care for their next batch of babies. So when you see a crow circling in the sky, remember that it isn’t looking for trouble. It just might be looking out for its little brothers and sisters!

If there’s an animal YOU find scary, find out as much as you can about it. You just might learn that there’s really nothing to fear!

  • More Animal Stories