Animal Planet recently released “Top 10 Animals that Scare Us,” right in time for Halloween. So I decided to go through this list and see just how many of these fear-inducing animals live in Maine. Then I realized I had a few things to say about these creepy (or in some cases, not so creepy) creatures, because in Maine, we tend to look at things a bit differently.
1. Black widow spider
That’s no surprise. In fact, let’s talk about spiders in general for a moment. I happen to have quite a few spiders in my 100-year-old basement, according to other people because I wouldn’t be caught dead down there. Scratch that. If I were dead, that would be the only opportunity you’d have to drag me in that basement. And then I’d haunt you for dragging my lifeless body into a spider-infested hole. Yes, I’m scared of spiders. I don’t care if the majority of them are harmless. They’re creepy. That’s why people buy cotton spider webs for 25 cents at the Family Dollar to elaborately decorate their house for Halloween. That’s all you need to get to scare the crap out of trick-or-treaters.
Now, the black widow spider is special in that it has super venomous fangs. If spiders aren’t bad enough, how about one that can kill you? “Animal Planet” assures us that these spiders aren’t typically aggressive to humans. Just don’t tick them off and you’ll be fine. In fact, if you get bitten, it’s not an instant death scenario. Instead of writing a goodbye note to your family, head to the hospital. And keep in mind that children and the elderly are more at risk of having serious health complications from a black widow bite. Fortunately, this species is not indigenous to Maine … but on a rare occasion, they just might make the long trip up to Vacation Land. Check out this story about how two dozen black widow spiders hitched a ride to Maine last December: http://bangordailynews.com/2011/12/13/news/midcoast/shipment-to-biw-contains-unexpected-cargo-two-dozen-black-widow-spiders/. Oh, and thanks, “Animal Planet,” for planting this nice little fact in my brain: “Black widows like private places, so they’re most likely to be found hanging around in wood piles, barns or basements.” Basements?
Maine scary animal score: 0
Thank goodness we don’t have any poisonous snakes in Maine. High five for us. However, we might encounter them on a plane, according to Hollywood.
Maine scary animal score: 0
3. Norway rat
I had to read up on this one because that sounds like a very specific type of rat. So this is what I learned: The Norway rat is simply the most common species of rat and grows to be about 6-8 inches long. And yes, we do have them in Maine. http://www.maine.gov/agriculture/pesticides/gotpests/othercritters/rats.htm
Maine scary animal score: 1
Yeah, they’re gross. I wish I could say that Maine is free of bedbugs, but that’s just not true. Learn how dogs can battle bedbugs here: http://bangordailynews.com
Maine scary animal score: 2
5. North American bat
That’s interesting. I have spiders in my basement, and guess what, I definitely have bats in my attic. I can see why people are scared of flying mice, but I’d rather hang out in the attic than my basement any day of the week. In Maine, I’m pretty sure most people like bats, considering they help keep down our insane insect population. And I’m just going to go ahead and agree to disagree with “Animal Planet” and say that people are more scared of Vampire Bats, you know, the bats that bite farm animals with razor sharp teeth and suck them dry while they’re sleeping in the hay. It’s a simple equation really. Bat who eats bugs and fruit = less scary than bat who drinks blood from a piglet’s jugular.
Maine scary animal score: 3
6. Great white shark
Hell yes. I don’t know of anyone who isn’t afraid of getting their leg gnawed off by a giant fish. Humans are already out of their element in water, considering we don’t have gills or webbed appendages. Then throw a shark into the mix. Terrifying. I can barely stay afloat as it is. And isn’t the proper technique to avoid a shark attack to NOT thrash your legs around? I’m sorry, but that’s what I call swimming. Oh, and yes, off the coast of Maine we do, on occasion, see a great white shark. Story: http://bangordailynews.com/2012/08/17/news/portland/shark-week-in-maine-includes-sightings-catches-and-possibly-a-great-white/
Maine scary animal score: 3.5 (we don’t really have to deal with sharks all that often in Maine… half point)
Pigeons? People have pigeon phobia? Well, I think we all know who to blame that on — John Hughes and Chris Columbus, the writer and director, respectively, of “Home Alone II, Lost in New York.” If you are scared of pigeons, don’t visit any Maine city, especially Bangor.
Maine scary animal score: 5 (We do have to deal with a lot of pigeons … extra half point)
8. American black bear
People get really excited about black bear hunting season in Maine. Are we scared of them? Well, I like to think we respect them. It’s important to put your grub away when you tent out in the middle of the Maine forest, but that’s just because blacks bears and hungry bears. Yes they can run fast and climb trees, but why on earth would you be provoking a black bear in the first place? Bottom line is, I’d much rather run into a black bear than a grizzly bear or a heaven forbid, a polar bear. So I think “Animal Planet” is right in that people may be irrationally scared of black bears, but I think other bears are more worthy of our fear. For example, in general, I don’t think people are as scared of polar bears as they are of black bears, but I think that little misconception is on the shoulders of “Coca-Cola” and all of their cuddly holiday commercials about bears who like carbonated beverages while they slide around on icebergs. Not true. Polar bears attack people, and not for their ice cold soda pop.
Maine scary animal score: 6
9. Coyote - In Maine, we have plenty of those, and we have a group of people that have a grand old time driving around in their pick ups, tracking them and shooting them. So I have a hard time being scared of them. Are they dangerous? Yes. But in Maine, we seem to be more concerned with how they affect the deer population. But if you are deathly scared of coyotes, steer clear of the first quarter of Disney’s “Beauty & the Beast” (or are those wolves that chase Bell?) and go ahead and watch some Looney Tunes; the road runner gets him every time.
Maine scary animal score: 7
10. The American alligator - The only thing I have to say about that animal is that Mainers eat it … on a stick … as a special treat at the American Folk Festival that comes to the Bangor waterfront every summer! That said, if I ever saw an alligator face to face (not likely, since I like to live in a state that would freeze an alligator’s tail off), I would probably be scared of it. Let’s face it, an alligator is one of the closest things we have to a dinosaur, and if “Barney” didn’t embed a deep fear of dinosaurs in me early on (which I expect he did), “Jurassic Park” got the job done.
Maine scary animal score: 7