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Not-So-Creepy Critters

PictureA tarantula on the Landmarks

​From lizards and mice to tarantulas and bats, the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks are filled with a variety of native creatures, including several rare species. While many of these critters are known for their creepy appearance, they are in fact an important part of the ecosystem and are often more afraid of us than we are of them! The Halloween season brings the perfect opportunity to re-think the reputation of some of these extraordinary creatures. See if you can get a glimpse of a tarantula or a bat colony while enjoying the crisp fall air on a hike or bike ride. Keep in mind that the open spaces are a natural habitat. If you come across an animal, do your part to ensure your safety and protect the environment by maintaining a long viewing distance.
 
During the fall, tarantulas can be spotted all throughout the trails. A member of the spider family, tarantulas have eight legs, which are much larger, thicker and hairier than most other spiders that live in the United States. Although tarantulas are sometimes seen as creepy, they are not aggressive and can easily be admired from a distance. Just don’t get too close or touch them – an aggravated tarantula’s bite, while not lethal, releases an inflammatory amount of venom. It’s best to leave these creatures in peace so they can play their important role in the ecosystem: tarantulas help keep things in balance by eating large insects and small vertebrates like lizards and mice.

PictureBats at dusk

​Like tarantulas, bats often get a bad rap, but these fascinating flying mammals play an incredibly vital role in the ecosystem. Evening adventurers hoping to spot bats in the open spaces are advised to travel along Santiago Canyon Road near Irvine Lake. Visitors will see “Bat Bridge,” a temporary bridge found over Santiago Canyon Road near the Augustine Staging Area, which unexpectedly became home to thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats. While they may look a little ghoulish to some, bats are nothing to be afraid of: they are focused on searching for insects as prey, and their presence is highly beneficial to humans. Using special skills like echolocation, the location of objects by reflected sound, bats keep the local insect population in check and act as valuable pollinators.
 
See if you can spot these not-so-creepy critters on a trip to the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks! Join Irvine Regional Park staff after dark for a family-friendly 2-mile Night Hike on Friday, November 8 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Hikers will explore the park’s natural areas and are welcome to bring a small flashlight in case any critters are spotted along the way!
 
For more information or to register for upcoming programs, visit LetsGoOutside.org. Programs are open to the public with required registration, but space is limited and early registration is recommended. Registration closes at 4 p.m. the day prior to each event.