Tarantulas in search of love make annual appearance in Zion National Park

A tarantula found in Zion National Park, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of the National Park Service/Avery Sloss, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Tarantulas are making an appearance in Zion National Park, and while some may find them frightening in appearance, park officials assure visitors there is nothing to be afraid of.

A tarantula found in Pine Creek Canyon, Zion National Park, Utah, July 28, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Don Gilman, St. George News

Tarantulas are a rare find during most of the year, as they are nocturnal creatures and usually stay in their underground burrows. However, male tarantulas can be seen wandering the park during summer and fall months in search of a mate.

Female tarantulas typically remain in their burrows throughout their 25-year life, according to the National Park Service. Males live approximately 10 years, which is sometimes cut short when the female eats them after mating.

Utah is on the northern border of tarantula range, but they can occasionally be found as far north as Cache County, according to wildawareutah.org.

Tarantulas are the largest spider in the Southwest, and may appear to be more threatening than other spiders, according to NPS. However, tarantulas rarely bite, and their venom is non-toxic to humans. They may bite when harrassed, and the barbed hairs on their body can be flung at their attacker and cause skin irritation, which is their main form of defense.  

A tarantula found in Zion National Park, Zion National Park, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of the National Park Service/Adrienne Fitzgerald, St. George News

Tarantulas are eaten by a variety of desert creatures, including foxes, bats, roadrunners and tarantula hawks.

Tarantulas eat insects such as grasshoppers, beetles and even other spiders. They inject venom into the prey with their fangs, which both subdues the insect and makes them easier to digest. They don’t need to eat often, one cricket is often enough for a tarantula to live on for a few weeks, according to NPS.

The ability to live on small amounts of food is one of the ways tarantulas survive in the desert, where food is scarce. Living underground also helps, keeping them out of the hot sun in the summer and warm in the winter months.

Tarantulas are often feared, but most often the tame creature is simply misunderstood. At Zion, they consider it a treat to come across these spiders, and ask that when visitors find one, they observe from a distance.

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Twitter:  @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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