Jaywalking tarantula causes motor accident in Death Valley

A telephoto close-up digital image of a Texas brown tarantula with its shadow on the asphalt road in Big Bend National Park
(Image credit: Rebecca L Latson / Getty Images)

Apologies to any arachnophobics amongst you, but hey, it is Halloween season so we reserve the right give you the willies at this time of year. Boo!

Besides, tarantulas have got a bad rep they don’t deserve. They’re a lot smaller than the moose, bears and bison that often cause 'car'-nage in the national parks of America, and they’re not actually aggressive normally.

But it appears they can still cause a pile-up on the roads, because over the weekend in Death Valley, a tarantula on the tarmac left a motorcyclist in hospital.

The National Park Service said the incident happened the afternoon of 28 October, when a Swiss couple driving on CA-190 east of Towne Pass in Death Valley National Park saw the fuzzy little arachnid crawling across the roadway. 

They jammed on the brakes to avoid hitting it - and a motorcyclist following them crashed into the back of their rented camper van.

A National Park Service (NPS) ambulance transported the motorcyclist to Desert View Hospital in Pahrump.

The spider walked away unscathed.

“Please drive slowly, especially going down steep hills in the park,” said Superintendent Mike Reynolds, who was the first NPS employee on scene at the accident. “Our roads still have gravel patches due to flood damage, and wildlife of all sizes are out.”

Tarantulas spend most of their long lives in underground burrows. People see them most often in the fall, when 8- to 10-year-old male tarantulas leave their burrows to search for a mate.  The female sometimes kills and eats him after mating. Even if she doesn’t kill him, the male tarantula rarely lives more than a few more months. However, female tarantulas can live for 25 years, mating multiple times.

Tarantulas are slow moving and nonaggressive. A tarantula’s bite is reported to be similar to a bee sting, and is not deadly to humans.

And their little fangs can’t burst the tires of camper vans. Especially moving ones.

At least the Swiss tourists didn’t start a wildfire by trying to burn a spider!