Whether you’re cautiously curious or already avid, autumn is the time to go tarantula-spotting in the Bay Area. It’s mating season for the hairy critters, and, accordingly, the males are venturing forth from the ground in search of potential partners, who coyly await their suitors on their burrows’ “doorsteps,” and try to eat them after the fact.
Tarantulas, contrary to common portrayal, are rather fragile beasts: easily trodden upon, possessing poor eyesight, and liable to loose a leg if they fall too great a distance. Their bite isn’t even as bad as you might think: enough to kill a cricket, but you’d feel it on the magnitude of a bee sting. Because they are so vulnerable, the arachnids are nocturnal and spend most of their time underground, just popping to the surface to grab a meal.
In autumn, however, tarantulas are more easily spotted as they forsake caution in the name of procreation. In the East Bay, you can find them at Las Trampas, Sunol, Del Valle, and Pleasanton Ridge Regional Parks. Mount Diablo is also prime tarantula territory, and both the State Park and the Lindsay Museum typically offer guided tarantula walks along its slopes. In the South Bay, try Coyote Reservoir, Joseph D. Grant County Park, and Henry W. Coe State Park. Henry Coe hosts their annual Tarantula Festival and Fall Barbecue each October. It’s a fun, educational affair that attracts in the order of 400 attendees with the aim of dispelling the long-standing monster myth. Check out info on the 2008 event here.