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Tarantula Movement Begins Early On Mount Diablo, Giant Spiders Crawling Across East Bay

MOUNT DIABLO (CBS SF) -- The annual tarantula mating ritual began early on the East Bay's Mount Diablo, sending the giant, hairy spiders skittering across roads and meadows, in search of a willing partner.

The prowling male tarantulas are usually seen in September or October, but it's possible the record-breaking drought conditions or just the recent cool down have triggered the behavior early this year.

"It's definitely weather related," said Supervising Ranger Dan Stefanisko. His staff has spotted a few in motion, outside their normal hidden burrows.

Rangers remind visitors to enjoy the spiders, but don't touch them.

"They are special, and they are fascinating, but do not attempt to touch them," Stefanisko said, adding, "They are protected as are all the plants and animals in the state park areas."

Visitors are most likely to see tarantulas out at sunset or after dark, but the best views are on ranger-led hikes, where the goal is to get closer, not farther, from the arachnids.

"They look impressive because they're one of the biggest spiders around, but many people fear them," Stefanisko said. "They're very docile."

The hairy spiders are mostly harmless, unless you're an insect. While they are venomous, no human has died from a tarantula bite, although they can be painful for a few days. The spiders only bite when attacked, so unless you pick one up and try to cup it in your hands, you have nothing to fear. The hairs can also trigger allergic reactions, as the follicles are actually used to make itching powder.

The male tarantulas emerge from their solitary burrows after five to eight years to seek a willing mate, and then die, while the female spiders can live far longer, up to 30 or 40 years.

For details on the park's tarantulas, check here:

Want to see more? Ken Bastida reports on the behavior in this video filed last October.

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