Ever stop to wonder why Halloween is such a popular holiday? Most people don’t even get the day off work or school, after all! Part of the attraction has to do with enjoying the changing season. Visits to pumpkin patches and the country farm continue to gain in popularity with each new generation. But another, maybe not so innocent form of Halloween entertainment is also on the rise: the haunted house/barn/prison/mansion you name it. Americans love to scare themselves for entertainment! Perhaps this need for the adrenalin rush of fear is a result of our “tame” existence today in North America where a relatively peaceful day-to-day life lacks the thrill of fear and danger, so we manufacture it and package it for sale.
For the most part such past-times are harmless enough and provide momentary excitement and thrills and chills. However, real harm occurs when the images from the haunted house become a perceived reality. When the image of the evil werewolf in the graveyard with burning red eyes gets transposed on the real wild wolves of North America and elsewhere. Yes, there are monsters among us, but they walk around in human form, not animal. Those are the predators that should concern us.
Myths of werewolves, wolves stalking and killing humans, movies like “The Gray” and movies/books like the Twilight series help perpetuate the myth of the wolf as a dangerous predator on humans. It carries over to comments from our politicians and policy makers who want to see the wolf hung in the court of public opinion, not managed by science as the apex carnivore needed for healthy ecosystem maintenance. So enjoy Halloween. Go out trick or treating with your kids. But help them to understand the difference between our real, wild gray wolves who should be admired as any other wild animal for their ability to survive and thrive, part of a healthy, largely intact ecosystem and the pretend “scary” wolves/werewolves of TV and the movies. Wolves pose almost zero threat to humans, with only two deaths being attributed to wolves in the last 60 years. On the other hand, the sedentary life style of children today who often avoid outdoor play and recreation poses a real threat to the safety and health of today’s children, who are experiencing a high rise in the rate of obesity and diabetes.
So, enjoy Halloween, marvel at the changing leaves and admire the big orange pumpkins. Carve a jack o’lantern and eat sweets in moderation. And teach your children to respect all nature, including wild wolves.