Tulsa Zoo animals that aren’t as “spooky” as you may think

TULSA, Okla. — Spiders, snakes, owls and bats... all get a bad rep, especially during Halloween.

Kaylyn Compton, Tulsa Zoo Director of Education, talked with FOX23 to set the record straight this spooky season.

“I think its a lack of understanding, especially when it comes to snakes and insects and spiders,” Compton says. “They are so different than we are, its hard to relate to them so they are perceived a lot in a negative connotation.”


“As a consensus we see a lot of people who have a fear of snakes,” Compton says. ”We have multiple ambassador animals that are snakes and our goal is to really help connect people to nature and learn about why snakes are so important to our environment.”

Compton introduced Onyx. The western hognose snake is native to Oklahoma. It gets its name from the shape of its nose, which is used to burrow underground where they can find their main food source: toads.

Compton says without this snake, Oklahoma could get overrun by rodents and toads. She adds that these snakes protect themselves by playing dead. When they feel threatened they roll over to reveal their completely black bellies, which resemble dying tissue, and they emit a “gross” smell.

“In realty most snakes are not wanting to come and have anything to do with people” Compton explains. “They would prefer us to leave them alone.”


“People get all sort of creepy crawlies when they think of cockroaches!”

While you might think of them as dirty, Compton says cockroaches are actually the cleaners of the ecosystem.

“They actually don’t eat living things. They are the clean up crew!” she says. “They are cleaning up the leaf litter, and dead or decaying materials.”


“Owls in general have a spooky connotation to them. Its typically because they are most active at night,” Compton says with an eastern screech owl perched on her hand.

That specific owl is native to Oklahoma. She says owls can turn their heads about 270 degrees because they have 14 bones in their neck compared to a human that only has 7.

Don’t be surprised if you don’t see one in the wild. In addition to mostly going out at night, they also have a knack for camouflage with feathers colored in the same way as the bark of a tree.

Owls also help keep the rodent population down.


“People typically think of their bites and vampires”

Compton says the nocturnal animals help with seed dispersal. A lot of bats eat fruit and then “disperse” the seeds in other areas to help plant new bushes or trees.


Compton says in order to have a balanced eco system we have to have all those animals.

“If you take something out of the equation, it can throw that balance off so that’s why it is important to protect and understand they have a really important role in our environment.” she says.

Compton says she hopes coming to places liked the Tulsa Zoo and getting to have a connection to animals with animal will build empathy in people and help them have a better understanding of what they do for the environment.