October 21, 2011 at 3:02 PM

Tarantulas: Santa Fe’s Harbingers of Autumn

"...for me, it's the tarantulas that make it Fall..."

By Karen Denison

At Home Outdoors

Karen Denison is owner of Outspire Hiking and Snowshoeing guide service, a former biologist, and a shameless admirer of the outdoors.

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Fall is really here.  How do I know?  Is it the white snow on the mountain or the golden aspens?  No, it's the first tarantula of the season!

Tarantulas are big, furry, deliberate crawlers and for most of the year completely unseen by the casual passer-by.

But things change come late September or October.  While the females continue to spend their time hidden, often in underground burrows, the males go on tour looking for mates.

Look for them in sandy, dry areas up to 7500-feet in elevation.  They're especially noticeable when crossing roads--I will often stop to rescue them, helping them across as if they were little old ladies instead of the sex-crazed guys they are.  And yes, they're about 4 inches long with legs, so easily spotted from a moving car.

Males are recognized by the "tibial hook" on the foreleg, but it's a great bet if you see one out in broad daylight now it's a male.  They will run fast if provoked, or raise up their forelegs and look fierce, but mostly they seem oblivious to such huge creatures as us and continue their march.  They have others things on their minds.

So bless the yellow chamisa and purple asters in flower--for me, it's the tarantulas that make it Fall!

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