To Halloween or not to Halloween, that seems to be the big question this year, at least on Nextdoor.com. The questions are flying about on that app, “are you letting your children go door to door?” “Are you passing out candy?” and so on. Applause to the man who posted he had bought a 6 foot PVC pipe so that he could slide candy into a bag while keeping socially distant!
Two things are definitely true this year – candy sales are way up! I think it was up even without Halloween as an excuse but it is skyrocketing this month for sure. And with the combination of kids doing home schooling (think holiday art projects), and more people just spending time at home, houses are getting decorated much more, and more elaborately, than usual. Which, who knew? - could cause problems for wildlife!
Scary homes are not the problem so much as some of the materials used to create the effects. The acrylic webbing material that you can stretch to make spider webs can trap and tangle up birds and other small animals. Be sure that you don’t stretch it across fly-ways or around trees caution wildlife experts. Instead, if you still want to use it at all, hang it against a flat wall or on the inside of windows well out of reach of animals. Be aware that any object that dangles, loops or flutters can become a trap to an unsuspecting bird, lizard, or small mammal.
That’s not the only dangerous item we’re being warned about. Decorations that contain fruit or vegetables (or look like them) are attractive to wildlife and often contain colorings or other artificial ingredients to help them retain their looks long-term. Animals get their heads and legs caught in small round objects and those with loops. Carved pumpkins certainly can attract hungry critters. Be aware that some pumpkins are treated with bleach or other harmful additives to keep them fresh. Certainly avoid putting candles into your carved pumpkins – we are still reeling from a couple of major fires! Fortunately there are flameless candles readily available and they come in a variety of sizes.
For those who do venture out for trick-or-treating, be aware of where that stash of candy gets put overnight. Chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats but dogs, especially, seem attracted to it. Even candy that is not chocolate can make your pet sick between the sugar and fat in it. Make sure all candy, both what you collect and what you give out, is kept well out of reach of your pets.
Know that streets filled with ghosts, goblins and superheroes can be frightening to wildlife and pets alike. Your usually friendly dog may not recognize your neighbor child dressed as a vampire and he may react protectively. It’s best to keep all your pets safely locked in a bedroom far from the door so they don’t slip out or scare the kids. Let’s make this a safe holiday for all!
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.