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Single In Colorado: Male, Lovesick, Would Die To Find Mate, Has Eight Legs, Can Travel

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Single In Colorado: Male, Lovesick, Would Die To Find Mate, Has Eight Legs, Can Travel

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Jackie Billot, 36, a graduate student at Colorado State University, watches as two females are captured studying tarantula burrows, whose intricate shapes may help explain how the spiders survive Colorado's harsh winters. (The Denver Post via Helen H. Richardson/Getty Images)
Single In Colorado: Male, Lovesick, Would Die To Find Mate, Has Eight Legs, Can Travel

A volunteer holds a female tarantula after pulling it out of a burrow to study the structure of a spider's burrow near Lamar, southeast Colorado. The tarantula is then released. (The Denver Post via Helen H. Richardson/Getty Images) © (The Denver Post via Helen H. Richardson / Getty Images) A ​​volunteer studying the structure of a spider's burrow near Lamar, in southeastern Colorado, holds a female tarantula after pulling it out of its burrow . The tarantula is then released. (The Denver Post via Helen H. Richardson/Getty Images)

Every fall, in this flat, sprawling corner of southeastern Colorado, thousands of animals roam, some with eight legs, some with two.

Scientists, nature enthusiasts and members of this rare, spider-obsessed subspecies of humanity witness something extraordinary as groups of fist-sized male tarantulas emerge from their burrows to search for mates in the short grass prairie.

Parking lots filled up and cars lined the roads on the 440,000-acre Comanche National Grassland and nearby Vogel Canyon.

Charlie Fox, a flooring installer in suburban Denver, and his two grandsons were looking into a spider hole. Fox, 70, owns 10 tarantulas and loves excitement. He lost half his toe in an unsuccessful alligator fight at a reptile park, with the remaining toe in a gift shop. And fight the serpent with noise.

Male tarantulas mingle in search of mates in the southern plains of southeastern Colorado in September. The male will shake his leg at the entrance of the female's hole in the hope that the vibration will attract the female. When it works, they stand face to face and perform a mating dance. (The Denver Post via Helen H. Richardson/Getty Images) © (The Denver Post via Helen H. Richardson / Getty Images) Male tarantulas cross paths as they search for a mate at the Southern Plains Land Trust in southeastern Colorado in September. The male will shake his leg at the entrance of the female's hole in the hope that the vibration will attract the female. When it works, they stand face to face and perform a mating dance. (The Denver Post via Helen H. Richardson/Getty Images)

"I love tarantulas and these guys want to see them in the wild," he said. "When the sun goes down, I will look for snakes."

On a nearby highway, tarantulas clumsily moved along the pavement as traffic slowed to avoid being crushed. So many people die each year that scientists propose tunnels to help them pass through certain highways.

Aphonopelma hentzi , commonly known as the Oklahoma or Texas brown tarantula, lives as far east as Louisiana, with particularly high densities in this part of Colorado.

One of the largest cities in the area, La Junta is building a tourism industry around the spider, hosting a tarantula festival, a tarantula website, and tarantula murals throughout the city.

"We want to be known as the Tarantula Capital of the World," said Mayor Joe Ayala. "We want to be a house where tarantulas roam."

Tarantula fans say spiders don't deserve their horror movie fame. Despite their wild appearance, tarantulas are mostly docile. Their bite is painful, but the venom is usually harmless to humans.

At worst, they can produce tiny hairs that irritate the skin; Researchers call it "hair".

Jackie Billot, 36, fell in love with spiders while growing up in the Denver suburb of Aurora. He used empty ketchup and mustard containers from his grandfather's restaurant to catch them.

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"I really wanted a tarantula, but my mother didn't want one," he said. "When I was very little, we bought ants and balls and made birds."

Today, she is a graduate student at Colorado State University, studies tarantulas and shares her home with 64 of them, as well as four scorpions, a black widow, two snakes, a jumping spider that just gave birth, a colony of insects . pretending to die and three dogs.. .

Earlier this month, he and several other hikers and volunteers went on a prairie hike near the town of Lamar, 55 miles east of La Junta.

They arrived during mating season to study tarantula burrows, whose intricate shapes may help explain how they survive Colorado's harsh winters. Each spider digs its own burrow and spends most of its time there.

Jackie Billot (left) and Rich Reading use long blades of grass to coax female tarantulas out of their burrows as the sun sets at the Southern Plains Land Trust's Heartland Ranch Nature Reserve. (The Denver Post via Helen H. Richardson/Getty Images) © (The Denver Post via Helen H. Richardson/Getty Images) Jackie Billot (left) and Rich Reading use long blades of grass to lure female tarantulas out of their holes as the sun sets. Nature (The Denver Post via Helen H. Richardson/Getty Images)

The challenge was to pull six women out of their holes, place them in containers, and then pour plaster into each hole to make a cast of the room. The next day, they dug up the molds and placed the women in the new pits the researchers had dug for them.

The stifling heat gave way to a furious wind as the night wore on. Everyone was busy catching spiders across the field. They ride over holes the size of golf balls, gently shake the blades of grass and try to attract a female.

Someone shouted.

"I'm crawling!" announced Terry Bauer, a social worker and volunteer at the Butterfly Pavilion, an invertebrate zoo and research center outside Denver.

Bauer was delighted. Growing up, his friends called him Terry the Tarantula because of his fascination with the eight-eyed arachnid. At 18, he had a tarantula tattoo on his leg.

"Man, this is the best day ever," he said.

Female brown tarantulas usually live about 30 years and never move more than a few inches from their burrows. Men's lives are short. Around the age of 10, they left in the fall to find a mate.

"This time of year the males wander for a mile," said Bilotta, who was careful not to step on any of the stubborn, fascinated tarantulas crawling in front of him. "It goes a long way when you're only 6 inches tall."

One climbed up his friend's leg and grabbed his shoulder before gently placing it next to the woman's ass.

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"Are you going to put it on?" asked Billot.

The male beats his feet at the entrance, hoping that the vibration will attract the female. It worked. Silhouetted against the setting sun, they faced each other in a mating dance.

Afterwards, females often eat their unfortunate mate, which is a great source of protein.

"He may die, but how far," said Billot.

Other dangers await those who can escape: starvation, severe cold, predators, and of course car and truck tires.

A male tarantula crosses Highway 71 at dusk near Lamar, Colorado Since many tarantulas are hit by cars, tunnels are recommended to help them navigate certain roads. (The Denver Post via Helen H. Richardson/Getty Images) © (The Denver Post via Helen H. Richardson / Getty Images) A ​​male tarantula crosses Highway 71 at dusk near Lamar, Colorado . Since many tarantulas are hit by cars, tunnels are recommended to help them navigate certain roads. (The Denver Post via Helen H. Richardson/Getty Images)

And that's another reason the researchers are here: to convince the state to install tarantula tunnels, maybe about a foot wide, to keep the spiders out of traffic.

"It is very disappointing to see them dead on the road," said Billot. "There was room for them before we built and destroyed roads.

It is not known how much the underground passage will cost. The plan calls for low fences in areas of high spider density to guide the animals into tunnels.

It's a tough sell. Tarantulas are not endangered. They do not pose a great danger to drivers.

And while millions of dollars have been spent on overpasses so that deer, moose and cougars can safely cross the road, tarantulas do not attract public sympathy.

Rich Reading, Butterfly Pavilion's vice president of science and conservation, said tarantulas are worth saving because they are predators that help control pests, including grasshoppers and beetles.

"And because they are brilliant," he added.

The Colorado Department of Transportation has provided 10 wildlife surveillance cameras to monitor the tarantulas that commonly cross the roads. Researchers installed it. Depending on the results, the state involved another 140.

A male tarantula crawls into the pants of Rich Reading, vice president of the Butterfly Pavilion, an invertebrate zoo and research center outside Denver. Reading participated in research at Heartland Ranch Foundation's Southern Plains Nature Reserve. (The Denver Post via Helen H. Richardson/Getty Images) © (The Denver Post via Helen H. Richardson / Getty Images) A ​​male tarantula crawls into the pants of Rich Reading, vice president of the Butterfly Pavilion, a zoo and invertebrate research center outside Denver. Reading participated in research at Heartland Ranch Foundation's Southern Plains Nature Reserve. (The Denver Post via Helen H. Richardson/Getty Images)

"We're going to look at what we caught on camera, get some basic information and sort things out," said Lorna McCallister, head of research at the Butterfly Pavilion.

The state Department of Transportation is less concerned about spiders than the potential for traffic accidents.

Michelle Pullin, spokeswoman for the department, questioned the dangers of stopping motorists on highways during tire season.

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"Do we need tarantula signs or freeway ramps so people can see them?"

This month, La Junta, population 6,900, hosts its first annual Tarantula Festival with music, a beer garden, a parade, an eight-legged race and tours of the tarantula pastures led by expert guides.

One of the most decorated tarantula paintings covers the side of the Halloween store. Another adorned a wall in Livewell Park. And when a car drives through the local real estate office, they cover the hole with plywood and paint a tarantula.

"It was a case of taking lemons and making lemonade out of them," said Pamela Dennahy, the city's director of tourism and events.

La Junta isn't the first Colorado city to celebrate a native animal or plant with a holiday. Denahy hopes the tarantulas will give La Junta the same economic boost that snow geese, sandhill cranes, mountain plovers, elk and even watermelons have given other communities.

A sign outside the Junction 50 gallery reads: "Tarantula brings information here."

Char Hosea, who runs a stall there, plays with a comical tarantula doll he made.

"When we first moved here, we had a big one on our front porch," he said. "If you get too close, they will attack you."

Jackie Billot, 36, a graduate student at Colorado State University, watches as two females are captured studying tarantula burrows, whose intricate shapes may help explain how the spiders survive Colorado's harsh winters. (The Denver Post via Helen H. Richardson/Getty Images) © (The Denver Post via Helen H. Richardson/Getty Images) Jackie Billot, 36, a graduate student at Colorado State University, looks at two female tarantulas she caught while exploring tarantula burrows, whose intricate shape can help explain how the spider survives in the bright red color. it stays cold (Helen H. Richardson/Getty Images via Denver Post)

Her husband, Cliff, says it's not always easy to dodge on the road.

"When you're walking on a hill, it's hard to miss," he said. "There will sometimes be 40 people on the way."

In Vogel Canyon, about 15 miles away, people wandered the fields looking for tarantulas.

ম্র অক্ট্ক ক্র্ট ক্র কেন্যান্য ঍঍়ir. However, any male prisoner will be nearing the end of his life and will not survive long in captivity.

Jennifer Mirpole of Colorado Springs celebrated her daughter's 11th birthday.

The girl and her friends wandered through the cactus-covered landscape and excitedly recounted what they saw. Tarantulas тар бутер опер ским кара.

Мирпол says, "Hazel liked spiders." "Until I was born, I had arachnophobia."

soon the darkness descends. As the dark figures with flashlights carefully made their way back to their car, the crowd began to slow down. hazar hazar கர்க்கைபத்தியியை The tarantula started searching.

This is a special reporter.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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