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Wildlife Spotlight: Tarantulas

PictureTarantula on the Landmarks

Tarantulas are everywhere! These large arachnids can be spotted on trails all over the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks in the late summer and early autumn months. Tarantulas are not aggressive animals and they will happily let you admire them from a distance, so long as they can go about their business. Tarantulas are part of the large and diverse spider family, and thus have eight legs, but they are much larger and thicker than most other spiders that live in the United States. Tarantulas ambush their prey on the ground and are known to eat small vertebrates like lizards and mice as well as large insects and other spiders.

Although Orange County tarantulas are not particularly dangerous to humans, there are good reasons to leave them alone. If provoked a tarantula may bite, releasing a non-lethal but inflammatory amount of venom. Tarantulas also have a curious but effective defense mechanism that uses hair on their abdomens, called urticating bristles, which can be shed onto attackers and cause irritation. If you’ve ever thought a tarantula’s hairy appearance was creepy, you might have been on to something!

As with every animal on the Landmarks, tarantulas are happiest when they are left alone to play their part in the ecosystem. Next time you notice a tarantula (or three!) on the side of the trail, feel free to have a look from a comfortable distance.