5 Spook-tacular Animals to Welcome to Your Garden this Halloween

Updated October 2021

Each year at Halloween, popular decorations and public perceptions can give some animals a reputation for being menacing or malignant. But some of these creepy critters, like spiders, owls, and bats, can be especially beneficial to your backyard habitat.


great horned owl peering over branch
Great horned owl in Louisiana. Credit: Dennis Demcheck, U.S. Geological Survey.

Owls have been traditionally viewed as bad omens, representing death in many cultures, and their hoots can make any nighttime walk a little spookier. By welcoming these silent, stealthy hunters to your yard, they’ll provide superior rodent control and protect your yard with their watchful gaze. Old trees are a favorite habitat of many owl species, and a few species, including screech, barred and barn owls, might even use an owl nesting box.  


Toad hunting moths in the light of a garden spotlight. Credit: Frank Roth/NWF Photo Contest.

These helpful hoppers are often associated with witchcraft in folklore. Provide a home in your yard for your friendly neighborhood toads and they’ll thank you by eating thousands of insects over the course of an average summer. Plant native plants that support insects, which are toads’ main food source, and don’t spray pesticides. You can also get a “toad abode” or create one by half-burying a ceramic pot in your yard to provide hiding places. Install a backyard pond or water garden where these beneficial amphibians can lay their eggs.


orb weaver spider
A marbled orb weaver spider, highlighted by a distant street lamp. Credit: Jonathan Lavan/NWF Photo Contest.

Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, is one of the most common phobias, and while these creepy crawlies strike fear in the hearts of many, the ones who should be scared of them are your pesky garden pests. Spiders will protect your beautiful yard from plant-eating insects and protect you from annoying bugs like flies mosquitoes. Thank them by avoiding pesticides, recycling fallen leaves as mulch in your garden beds, and building brush piles so they can hide and protect themselves from the cold winter temperatures.


Eastern rat snake
Eastern rat snake in Missouri. Credit: Tammi Elbert/NWF Photo Contest.

Another common phobia is ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes. They may never live down their scary reputation in some people’s minds, but many snakes can be a big help in the garden and almost all are totally harmless to people. Common garden species such as garter snakes prefer cool, dark places to hide and prey on insects, slugs, and even rodents, which can carry dangerous diseases into your home. Find out what to do if you find snakes in your yard.


bat house
Bt house. Credit: Courtney Celley/USFWS.

It’s true vampire bats are real — there are three bat species found in Latin America that feed on the blood of other animals, usually birds or hoofed mammals — but they’re not a danger to people. In fact, all 47 species of bats in the United States are beneficial to us. Most species feed on insects and in doing so provide important pest control services. A few of our bats feed on nectar and help in plant pollination. A bat house placed 12-15 feet off the ground can entice these flying friends to take up residence in your yard.

Have a great Halloween and remember though some kinds of wildlife might seem scary, in the big picture we humans pose much more danger to wildlife than it does to us. You can get involved in the effort to save our wildlife!