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Critters That Lurk in the Night

As Halloween draws our attention to creatures that lurk in the night, let’s look at some wildlife that actually does! Nocturnal animals are those that are active at night and rest during the day. Typically nocturnal animals rest during the day and hunt for prey at night. There are many species of nocturnal creatures all over the world! Let’s explore a few.

Ocelot

Ocelot
Protecting habitat for ocelots is important on both sides of the United States and Mexico border. | USFWS

Like many big cats, the ocelot is nocturnal and sleeps during the day and hunts at night. It is a highly endangered cat with fewer than one hundred left in the United States.

The ocelot is graceful and can be up to 4 ft long and 35 pounds. It’s coat has brown spots with black borders that are elongated like chain links. Similar to eye liner, the ocelot has a black line above each eye that extends to the back of the head.

This carnivore hunts mostly rabbits, birds, fish, mice, snakes, and other small to medium sized prey such a lizards. They hunt at night, sleeping in the daylight hours where they are draped along a high tree limb of sheltered in a den.

Ocelots are found in south Texas at Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, both near Alamo and Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge near Brownsville.

Bats

Mexican Free-Tailed Bat | USFWS
Mexican Free-Tailed Bat | USFWS

As one of the poster species for Halloween, bats are nocturnal and also the only mammal that can fly! Although the saying goes “bling as a bat”, bats actually have excellent eyesight and navigate through echolocation.

All bats found in the United States feed only on insects (the one exception is the Jamaican fruit-eating bat that eats insects and fruit). Moths, mosquitos, and beetles are typical meals for these flying friends that can eat one half of it’s body weight in just one night.

Bats can be found all across the Refuge System! They have an incredible ability to acclimate to their environment and can be found all across the country. Typically, they reside in caves where they have access to water, safe places to hide from predators, and plenty of food.

 

Owls

Owls are an incredibly diverse and interesting family of birds. From the dark brown great horned owl, to the bright white snowy owl, these birds have a wide range of color, habitat, food, and physical features.

Barred Owl at Malheur NWR | Ray Bosch/USFWS

There are 19 species of owl in North America and most of them are nocturnal carnivores. Like most owls, the Barred Owl hunts small animals, especially rodents. The Great Horned owl on the other hand frequently eats larger mammals such as skunks!

Some owls live in large, mature forests made up of both deciduous trees and evergreens, often nesting in the tree cavities. However some owls live in other habitats such as the Barn Owl that prefers large areas of open land where they can hunt or the Burrowing Owl which nests in holes in the ground.

As you are out on Halloween night, trick or treating, out on a refuge, or something else, see if you can spot some of these critters or others that lurk in the night. Happy Halloween!

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2014/10/critters-that-lurk-in-the-night/

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