Tarantula causes traffic collision at Death Valley National Park; biker hospitalized, officials say

Tarantula causes traffic collision at Death Valley National Park; biker hospitalized, officials say


Saman Shafiq
 USA TODAY

A group of tourists were involved in an accident Saturday at Death Valley National Park in California, when a Swiss couple suddenly braked their rented camper van to avoid hitting a tarantula, causing a 24-year-old Canadian man on a motorcycle behind them to crash into the vehicle, the National Parks Service said.

The injured Canadian motorcyclist was transported to a local hospital while the spider walked away unscathed, said the NPS. While the parks service did not provide an update on the motorcyclist’s injuries, an NPS spokesperson told USA TODAY that the injuries were not life-threatening.

Superintendent Mike Reynolds, who was the first NPS employee to arrive at the site of the accident, advised visitors to drive slowly “especially going down steep hills in the park.”

“Our roads still have gravel patches due to flood damage, and wildlife of all sizes are out,” said the NPS officer.

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What is a tarantula?

Tarantulas are the largest spiders in North America, according to the NPS. Adult tarantulas average five inches in length and when spread out, their leg span is up to 11 inches, says the National Wildlife Federation. Besides its eight legs, a tarantula’s body includes a cephalothorax (a fused head and thorax, or chest) and an abdomen.

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Tarantulas are covered with thousands of fine hairs ranging in color from tan to dark brown. These hairs are what these arachnids use in hunting. Their diet mostly consists of insects like beetles and grasshoppers and tarantulas in the desert may also devour small lizards, mice, and even scorpions.

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Tarantulas spend most of their long lives in underground burrows, says the NPS. People are most likely to encounter them in the fall, when 8- to 10-year-old male tarantulas leave their burrows to search for a mate. The female sometimes kills and eats the male after mating. However, even if she doesn’t kill him, the male tarantula rarely lives more than a few more months. On the other hand, female tarantulas can live for 25 years, mating multiple times.

“Tarantulas are slow moving and nonaggressive,” says the NPS. “A tarantula’s bite is reported to be similar to a bee sting and is not deadly to humans.”

Saman Shafiq is a trending news reporter for USA TODAY. Reach her at [email protected] and follow her on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter @saman_shafiq7.

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