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Driver avoiding tarantula causes crash in Calif. national park

The driver of a camper van in the Death Valley National Park braked suddenly to avoid running over the tarantula


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By Amy Graff
SFGate, San Francisco

FURNACE CREEK, Calif. — A motorcyclist was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance Saturday after being injured in a collision that officials at California’s Death Valley National Park said was caused by a tarantula.

The collision occurred when a driver of a rented camper van “braked suddenly” to avoid running over a tarantula in the middle of the roadway, and the motorcyclist drove into the back of the van, according to a news release from the park.

The giant hairy spider was crossing state Route 190 east of Towne Pass. The van was occupied by a Swiss couple visiting the United States, park officials said.

The spider was unharmed.

“Please drive slowly, especially going down steep hills in the park,” Superintendent Mike Reynolds, the first Park Service employee at the scene of the collision, said in a statement. “Our roads still have gravel patches due to flood damage, and wildlife of all sizes are out.”

Tarantulas build underground burrows where they spend a lot of their time, but they often emerge in fall during mating season.

“I don’t think they’re exclusive to October, but it does tend to be when they’re more active,” said Jeanette Jurado, a national park ranger and incident information officer.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 4:15 p.m., Oct. 30, to correct a misidentification of the tarantula in a headline.

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