“Trick or treat” with 6 creepy critters from the Potomac River

Discover spooky animals and the Halloween treats that are inspired by them

       
 photo credit: Tibor Nagy

photo credit: Tibor Nagy

The Potomac River’s ecologically rich habitat is home to over a thousand species of animals, and some of the coolest ones around are also the spookiest.

This Halloween, conquer your fears and discover 6 creepy critters in our backyards. And for your bravery, we’ve treated you with animal-inspired dessert recipes!

 Jill Pantozzi Thenerdybird.com

Jill Pantozzi Thenerdybird.com

Worm snake

 photo credit: Brian Gratwicke

photo credit: Brian Gratwicke

TRICK: Don’t let this worm-like creature fool you. It’s actually a snake! This little guy lives underground most of the time and resembles a large worm, except it has pointy teeth and a sharp tip at the end of its tail. Kind of like a miniature American Horntail, maybe? They’re not venomous or a threat to humans, so be sure to take a deep breath if you see this friend slither across a trail.

TREAT: Take gooey mud and mix it with crunchy dirt in a plastic cup to make a perfect habitat for a worm. Now add your worms, pick up a spoon, and dig in. Congrats! You’ve just made the classic “worms in dirt” dessert with chocolate pudding, sandwich cookies, and gummy worms.

Indiana bat

 photo credit: USWS, Andrew King

photo credit: USWS, Andrew King

TRICK: Are those hundreds of blood-sucking vampires!? You can put away your garlic and crosses. They’re just Indiana bats and the only treats they’re interested in are insects. We can thank these critters for helping to keep the mosquito population under control. Sadly, the Indiana bat has been endangered since 1967. Human impacts including disturbing their caves where they hibernate, destroying the forests where they roost in the summer, and ingesting contaminants through water have contributed to their decline. Steps are being taken to help out these little bats, but you can do your part by sharing the news and informing others about these cute, little insect-eaters.

TREAT: Try out this four-ingredient recipe and make adorable bat treats (that could also make a great cupcake topper). Share them with your friends and tell them your new knowledge about Indiana bats!

Bold jumper

 photo credit: Tibor Nagy

photo credit: Tibor Nagy

TRICK: Great. Jumping spiders not only exist, but they also have to be named BOLD?! Why in the name of arachnophobia do these guys have to jump? Okay, this is more of an acrobatic trick, but these eight-legged friends jump to capture their prey. If one happens to land on you by mistake, don’t worry. A bite will only mildly irritate a human. If you’re worried about the prospect of bold jumpers using your house like their personal trampoline, check for and block holes or major access points through which a spider could slide.

TREAT: These yummy, chocolate spider treats are sure to jump — right into your mouth! Besides, chocolate has been said to ease anxiety. So, assuage your fear of spiders with these sweet bites.

Sturgeon

 photo credit: Mauro orlando

photo credit: Mauro orlando

TRICK: There are not too many creatures that can say they outlived the DINOSAURS, but sturgeons are one of them. Mother Nature’s ultimate magic trick! Despite looking like a frail skeleton with whiskers, these fish have staying power. They were swimming in our oceans over 85 million years ago and still do today. Sadly, our Darwinian heroes do not receive the respect they deserve. Due to overfishing and pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, sturgeons are endangered, meaning less of them are swimming upstream to the Potomac River to spawn.

TREAT: To give you an excuse to mention your newfound knowledge about sturgeons, add these fossil cookies to the table at your Halloween bonanza.

Copperhead

 photo credit: cHARLIe 2112(^

photo credit: cHARLIe 2112(^

TRICK: Walking through the woods on a summer day requires extra focus to make sure you do not accidentally crush a “Death Adder” underfoot. Thank goodness copperheads have begun hibernation! They hide themselves away to sleep from October until early March. But, when active, these guys are social, climb trees, swim, and blend in with their surroundings. They are venemous. Yes, that’s terrifying. But what would life be like without these guys? They help keep small mammal populations in check.

TREAT: Indulge in a ssstrawberry ssshortcake sssnake and you may just start speaking parseltongue.

Bull Shark

 photo credit: ume-y

photo credit: ume-y

TRICK: There may be mass panic about sharks, but in reality, humans pose a much greater threat to sharks than they do to us. So, let’s help dispel that tricky myth and celebrate the role bull sharks play in our local ecosystem. It’s been years since one was spotted in the Potomac River, but on rare occasions bull sharks in the Chesapeake Bay will swim into the brackish, tidal waters of our hometown river. The bull shark’s job, as an apex predator, is to help keep the ecosystem balanced, but unfortunately, hunting and water pollution endanger this finned friend. If you happen to encounter one (and that’s a big IF), they do give a warning before attacking with a definitive head-butt, so if you’re a duck, it’s time to fly!

TREAT: Keep your apex predator appetite at bay with these fun shark-themed pudding cups.  


       
 

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