As we move into brown tarantula mating season, towns in southeastern Colorado are gearing up for sightseers to hopefully provide tourism dollars in areas that don’t historically see many out-of-towners, unlike Breckenridge, Vail, Steamboat Springs, and other popular tourist spots within the state.
Tarantula Trek 2023
But while thousands of male tarantulas leave their dens to venture out for some life-altering whoopee this time of year, many won’t even get a chance to couple due to traffic. What does one have to do with the other? As male tarantulas go in search of a mate, many of them end up dead from car and truck tires as they try to scurry across roadways during their treks.
When we say life-altering, it’s because more often than not, after mating is completed, the female spider will try to devour her mate for the protein he can provide her for nourishing her egg sack of anywhere between 70 to 200 babies. Most will suffer this fate, but some do manage to escape after insemination is completed and run for their lives.
Benefits of Arachnids
The maneuver grants only a temporary reprieve from death, as they will succumb to the cold, anyway, come late fall or early winter. But those that do manage to mate help propagate future generations that serve a vital purpose. According to Rich Reading, vice president of science and conservation for the Butterfly Pavilion and a member of the Colorado Wildlife Commission:
“Tarantulas, because they are a top predator in the invertebrate world, are really important. They help control insect populations. They fit into the food chain. They eat grasshoppers. We want to protect everything. We want to make sure we conserve small things as well as big things.”
One idea that has been floating around since 2022 is that of tarantula tunnels. Much like overland wildlife crossings, tarantula tunnels would allow arachnids to make it across state routes or highways in one piece so that this particular dynamic of the food chain remains intact.
“Underpasses also would provide opportunities for reptiles and amphibians to cross roads without getting smashed,” added Reading.
Wildlife overpasses can cost as much as $2 million. A culvert tunnel beneath a highway would presumably be far less expensive. Reading hypothesized that research to scout the best locations for these tunnels would cost less than $60,000.
Colorado Department of Transportation
Arachnid fans working to prevent the flattening of hundreds of brown tarantulas each year have asked the Colorado Department of Transportation to create safe crossing tunnels under at least three highways. As of 2022, target roadways included U.S. Highway 385 (Lamar to Campo), State Highway 109 (Rocky Ford to Kim), and Highway 101 (Toonerville to Las Animas).
While CDOT officials haven’t yet committed to it, proponents of the plan believe that tiger salamanders, box turtles, and other prairie dwellers would benefit, too, if the concrete tunnels were to be installed. Every little bit counts.Whizzco