Increase in Tarantula sightings in Southern California

- By: Hal Eisner

We have lots of critter-neighbors here in Southern California including tarantulas. These are problem among the most misunderstood creatures. Movies make them look monstrous. But, they're scared of us too says Paul Becker. He raises thousands of the 8-legged furry critters. The owner of PetCenterUSA, he sells them online and to pet shops. In fact, he says that about 90% of his business is online. He even has a tarantula app and writes books about caring for tarantulas.

Some people like Julie Loorya and Ashley Johnson of Rancho Palos Verdes aren't fans of the big spiders. Johnson says she doesn't like them because "they're big and hairy!

Twice in the past couple of weeks big hairy tarantulas have been seen on or near hiking trails in Rancho Palos Verdes by locals like Brian Campbell and his son Ian. Campbell, a local Councilman says, “We were on our way to a trail. We were on our bikes and Ian saw it just walking down the middle of the street" when one showed up looking like a "remote car" says Campbell's son. Says Ian, “It was like this big and I said wait 'Dad what’s that? And he said ‘oh my God it’s a tarantula.'”

For the record, tarantulas live here in many parts of Southern California from the Inland Empire to Ventura County.

To show you how rare sightings really are entomologist Emil Fisher says "I have seen four tarantulas on Palos Verdes Peninsula over the last 15 years." Friends of his have seen another three or four. He says, "tarantulas are shy, docile creatures. The females rarely leave their burrows and the males wander in search of females during the right season. Becker says, this seems to be the season. And, with mating season coupled with heat and drought we are seeing the normally low-profile critters more as the males look to mate.

Becker says, the bottom line is don't bother them if you see any.

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