Wondrous Wildlife
By Vern and Lori Gieger
The Truth Behind the Tails

     The other day while chatting with friends we got on the topic of animal myths. I can see how some got started and even why some people may believe them. Others however are just plain stupid. Nonetheless some may give you a chuckle.
     Myth 1: If you touch a baby bird, his or her parents will abandon it.
     Fact: Birds have a poor sense of smell, but they are strongly bonded to their young. They will not abandon them if handled by humans. The best thing humans can do if baby birds falls from their nest is to put them right back in it. The parents will return to feed them.
     Myth 2: If you see a raccoon during the day, it must be rabid.
     Fact: Raccoons are opportunistic foragers and will appear when food is readily available. Although they are normally nocturnal, it is not uncommon to see raccoons out during the day in spring and summer when moms have high energy demands because they’re nursing young cubs.
     Myth 3: If you get close to a skunk, you’ll get sprayed.
     Fact: It is actually difficult for a person to get sprayed by a skunk. They only spray to defend themselves, such as when a dog runs up and grabs them. They cannot “reload” very fast and therefore they do not waste their odiferous weapon. Instead, they will stamp their front feet as a warning to get you to back off.
     Myth 4: Opossums are vicious and rabid.
     Fact: Opossums are resistant to rabies, most likely because of their low body temperature. Opossums are harmless, benign creatures that can barely defend themselves. Their hissing, teeth-baring, and drooling is not a sign of rabies but rather a bluff to scare off potential predators. When their “I’m scary” act doesn’t work, they often play dead.
     Myth 5: The best solution when a wild animal is bothering you is to trap and relocate the animal.
     Fact: Relocating a wild animal is far from kind. The moved animals panic and try to find their home habitat, often getting hit by cars or killed by other animals along the way. In spring and summer, often it’s a mother animal that is trapped and relocated, leaving her babies behind to starve. A far better solution is to remove whatever is attracting the animal, such as food and / or den sites. Relocating should be a last resort solution.
     Myth 6: Snakes will chase and attack you.
     Fact: If a snake comes quickly in your direction, it is most likely because it is confused. Its goal is to get away from you.
     Myth 7: Venomous snakes have triangular heads.
     Fact: So do a great number of the non-venomous. Many snakes have triangular looking heads. This is not a good way to determine between venomous and non-venomous.
     Myth 8: It was definitely a rattlesnake... I heard it!
     Fact: Most snakes both venomous and non-venomous rattle their tails when startled and when hitting leaves, brush or anything its touching it can resemble the sound of a rattlesnake.
     Myth 9: Opossums hang by their tails.
     Fact: Opossums use their tails to grasp branches as they climb trees. So it’s not surprising that people believe they also hang from branches. A baby opossum can hang from its tail for a few seconds, but an adult is too heavy.
     Myth 10: Touching a toad will give you warts.
     Fact: Many toads have bumps on their skin that look like warts. Warts are caused by a human virus, not toads.
     Myth 11: Porcupine can shoot their quills up to two feet.
     Fact: Porcupines cannot shoot their quills. The quills do, however, come off of its body and the quills have barbs that make removal difficult.
     Myth 12: Eating rattlesnake meat will cure cancer.
Fact: Eating rattlesnake meat is not much different than eating any other meat. (Thousands of people die each year, because they did not seek proper medical care.)
     Myth 13: On a full moon Barn owls turn into a beautiful seductresses and will seduce men.
     Fact: Once a barn owl always a barn owl, no transformations, sorry guys.
     Myth 14: The large black rat snake locally known as the Tilcuate –is reputed to chase women down at night, and rape them.
     Fact: They don’t chase anyone let alone rape them. For you devilish ladies who just got a grin on your face - sorry, you can put your skirts back down. Frankly they don’t even date outside their species.