Sunday, October 16th, 2011...16:41

Tarantula Hunting

Jump to Comments

For the last 5+ years I have been thinking about heading to Mt. Diablo to look for tarantulas during their October mating season (usually in November after realizing I missed it…again). Some years I had a good excuse for forgetting e.g. travelling to New York twice to watch Yankees win the ALCS and World Series in 2009; Halloween has also taken place over the weekend in recent years, sometimes the weather isn’t cooperative, etc. This year the Yankees exited the postseason early and even though I was too late to sign up for the guided hikes, decided take a shot at finding some spiders.

The male tarantulas come out around dusk towards the end of September and throughout October. We rolled up to the Mitchell Canyon entrance in Mt. Diablo State Park a bit before 6p and headed up the trail towards Deer Flat. After about 10 minutes, we came across our first tarantula, getting harassed by two families. Tarantulas in general, and especially the species found on Mt. Diablo, Aphonopelma smithi, are not very dangerous or aggressive. Because of this, many people attempt to handle the spiders. The recommended method is to place your hand on the ground in the spider’s path and allow it to walk over it. Raising it off the ground or attempting to touch it directly will likely scare the tarantula causing it to fling its urticating hairs and/or bite. Neither this group, or the next one we saw 10 minutes later seemed to heed this recommendation.

It’s actually quite tiring to continuously scan the trail trying to spot a brown tarantula at dusk on the brown dirt trail, amid the dirt covered rocks and poop. At 6:30p we turned around to head back, the possibility of seeing a spider outside of a tarantula jam (see bear jam) fading fast with the declining light. About 5 minutes later we happened upon a tarantula resting on the side of the trail. After snapping a few photos we hustled back to the car.

Aphonopelma smithi
Shot at f2.0 due to the very low light conditions.

Dinosaur and Tarantula
Dinosaur for scale.

If you decide to go, there is a $6 entrance fee and even though the sign says the park closes at sunset, you don’t have to worry about getting locked in the parking lot (the entrance gate is locked but the exit has no gate, just the “don’t reverse or your tires will pop spikes”). You shouldn’t have to walk far, we probably only walked a bit more than 1 mi up the trail. On the off chance you fail to spot any spiders, you will still be treated to some nice fall foliage.

Fall Colors

Comments are closed.