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At least one species of tarantula is common in Oklahoma and it's a non-aggressive and relatively harmless member of the community. The large brown/black spider known as the "tarantula" in Oklahoma is Aphonopelma baergi [formerly Dugesiella hentzi] , sometimes called the "Oklahoma Brown". When full-grown, they can be more than three inches long.

Although some people capture wild Oklahoma tarantulas as pets because of their impressive size and generally passive demeanor, it's not recommended; their venom is relatively mild (comparable to a bee/wasp sting) and they are generally very docile, but, they will bite if pressed.

Often, a tarantula's first line of defense is to use its hind legs to rub tiny hairs off its abdomen. These tiny, hollow, needlelike hairs are irritating to the skin of some people and may even cause anaphylactic shock in sensitized people.

Warning number two may be when they raise their front legs in a defensive/aggressive posture, showing you've violated their comfort zone. Biting may follow if you continue to threaten the spider through handling or movements.

And, if you accidentally drop it while handling it (for many people dropping the tarantula is a natural reaction after being bitten!), there's a good chance that its fragile abdomen will rupture, which is always fatal to the spider.Oklahoma Brown

The best advice: Just enjoy viewing them as local wildlife without picking them up, no matter how cute you find them. It would be a shame to accidentally kill one of these nice spiders who, without your intervention, might live 10, 20, or thirty years...

Tarantula's females live for up to 35 years. Male tarantulas live 7-12 years and reach sexual maturity at about 8-10 years of age.

Male tarantulas leave their burrows and begin the search for a mate when sexually mature, and these wandering males are the most common tarantulas seen in Oklahoma; a common sight in Oklahoma crossing country roads, in early evening, between June and November and are often seen in mass migrations for a few weeks in early summer.

Tarantulas are nocturnal hunting spiders that spend the day under rocks, in silk-lined abandoned rodent or reptile tunnels, or in other natural, sheltered cavities/retreats; although they are burrowing spiders, they'll use a "pre-fab" home when opportunity presents one. They plug their burrows for the winter months and emerge in spring. While they may hunt at night, they seem to prefer to remain in their burrows waiting for prey to pass. —Crickets, "June-bugs" ground beetles, grasshoppers, cicadas, and caterpillars are favored mobile meals.

If you see an Oklahoma tarantula in the wild, enjoy the show, give it a little space, and leave it alone to continue its life in peace. And remember, it may be even older than you are!

Follow the General First Aid instructions on the Perilous Partners page for bites/stings.

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