This Halloween, keep a wary eye out for things that go bump—and prowl, growl, hoot and howl—in the night. Many of the world’s most impressive predators wait for the cover of darkness before setting out to make their living. Here’s a gallery of some of nature’s most successful nighttime hunters.
Leopards prowl the night in Africa, Asia and India, bringing down deer, gazelles, monkeys and even birds. They’ll often drag their kills into the same trees where they lounge during the heat of the day, keeping themselves and their next meals safe from other predators.
Most owls, such as the northern spotted owl and Mexican spotted owl, wait for nightfall to swoop on silent wings in search of hapless squirrels, rabbits, wood rats and other small mammals. However, the snowy owl and burrowing owl do most of their hunting during the day!
The Florida panther is mostly active between dusk and dawn, when it searches through Florida’s swamps and forests for deer, rabbits, raccoons and feral hogs.
The panthers will sometimes take small pets or livestock too; that’s why Defenders works with local landowners to help them construct panther-proof fences and pens to help keep domestic animals safe from these native cats. Learn more about living with panthers on the Defenders website.
One of the smallest predators Defenders works on, the black-footed ferret, depends entirely upon prairie dog colonies for both food and shelter. At night, while the prairie dogs sleep snugly in their dens, the ferret prowls through the colony’s tunnels in search of their next meal.
The wolverine is primarily nocturnal, but can also be active during the daytime. This strong, aggressive animal may lope for dozens of miles as it hunts for ground squirrels and snowshoe hares, though it will also frequently scavange from the carcasses of larger animals killed by wolves or bears.
Red wolves wait until dark to hunt in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. Not much larger than coyotes, red wolves search for rabbits, raccoons, squirrels and other small prey, but will sometimes take down deer as well.
Gray wolves are crepuscular, meaning they do most of their hunting at dawn and again at dusk. But they’re also opportunists; they’ll take advantage of a good hunting opportunity any time of day or night.
Mythbuster: Contrary to popular belief, wolves don’t howl at the moon! But they do howl more often on brightly lit nights. This year, Halloween falls a full week after the full moon—will the night be bright enough to prompt some howling? If you live in wolf country, take a listen, and let us know!