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It’s Halloween: Don’t get tricked by myths about snakes and bats

October 25, 2013

Common garter snake
Common garter snakes are beneficial because they eat slugs, snails and other yard pests. Al St. John photo. Click photo to enlarge.
Night Snake
The Night Snake lives in rocky areas in eastern Oregon and is rarely seen because it hunts and moves at night. Al St. John photo. Click photo to enlarge.

SALEM, Ore.— Snakes and bats are everywhere at this time of year—on Halloween cards, costumes, cupcakes and cauldrons—which makes it a great time to talk about Oregon’s real snakes and bats. The state has a wonderful diversity of native species and each is a valuable part of the ecosystem.

Many people are unnecessarily afraid of snakes and bats because of persistent myths. Snakes, in general, are relatively inactive except when looking for a spot in or out of the sun or when hunting. Often people think a snake is dangerous because it flicks its tongue. In fact, it is ‘’tasting’’ the environment, which helps it sense danger and locate prey. Of the 15 snake species in the state, only the Western Rattlesnake has poisonous venom that is dangerous to humans.

As far as the state’s bats are concerned, you probably won’t see any at this time of year because they are hibernating or migrating to hibernation sites. In Oregon, bats are most visible in the summer when they are out hunting for mosquitoes and other insects. And, that is one of the great things about bats—an adult can eat about 1,000 insects in an hour!

Facts about Oregon’s snakes

  • All snakes are ectotherms. They control their body temperature by moving in and out of the sunlight or other sources of warmth.
  • All snakes have forked tongues that deposit air molecules on receptors in the mouth.
  • Snakes eat a variety of insects, spiders, slugs, amphibians and small rodents.
  • Rattlesnakes are born with multiple sets of fangs that are shed and replaced approximately every two months.

Facts about Oregon’s bats

  • Bats are the only flying mammal.
  • Bats hang upside down because it gives them an ideal position for take-off.
  • Bats can fly 20 to 30 miles an hour and travel more than 100 miles a night.
  • Disease and habitat loss are threatening the survival of bats around the world.
  • Eight of Oregon’s 15 bat species are identified in the Oregon Conservation Strategy as species in need of help.

Additional information about “Living with Bats” and “Living with Snakes” is available on the ODFW website.



Andrea Hanson, ODFW Conservation Strategy Coordinator, (503) 947-6320
Meg Kenagy, ODFW Conservation Communications Coordinator, (503) 947-6021

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