Stop the Squish: Protect Tarantulas During Their Mating Season

Target: Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Transportation Shoshana Lew

Goal: Commit to building a low fence and culverts along highways 385, 109, and 101 to funnel spiders during the mating season.

Spider expert Rod Crawford has said that “spiders are the most important land predators on the planet because of their enormous contribution to keeping insects under control.” With alarming declines in land-based insect populations due to climate change alongside the aggravation of pest species, management of the insect population is more crucial than ever. Because creepy crawlies aren’t as “charismatic” as other species like pandas or elephants, they need extra attention and support.

The annual tarantula mating migration is about to begin in southeast Colorado. Thousands of tarantulas head south looking for love. Countless numbers are squished crossing the highway. These tarantulas are essentially in managing pest species and are beloved by their local communities, who enjoy the tourism they bring in as well as their beneficial role in protecting crops. These spiders must be preserved to maintain a healthy, sustainable, and balanced ecosystem.

Rich Reading, vice president of science and conservation for the Butterfly Pavilion and a member of the Colorado Wildlife Commission, has a simple solution. He proposes a “very low fence” bent at the top to funnel spiders into concrete culverts tunneling underneath the highway. This wouldn’t just benefit tarantulas, but also other small animals like reptiles and amphibians who must survive perilous road crossings. He predicts that research into the best places to build crossings would cost less than $60,000.

So far, the response from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has been lukewarm. While expressing confusion about “how would you funnel tarantulas?,” they are currently in discussions with biologists from the Butterfly Pavilion in Denver. These discussions must lead to action. To secure the future of our invertebrate ecosystems, we must demand infrastructure that accommodates the survival of our most essential species.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Transportation Shoshana Lew,

Thank you for being a champion for sustainability and public transportation throughout your career as a public servant. Under your leadership, Colorado is a city on a hill, leading by example to show the rest of the country how transportation can be one of the most consequential elements of a collective effort to fight climate change.

Colorado has an opportunity to lead the way in acknowledging the impact roadways have on migrating animals. Spiders are the most important land predators on the planet for their role in managing insect pest populations. Very soon, thousands of male tarantulas are going to have to cross highways 385, 109, and 101 to fulfill their role in the annual mating season. Under current conditions, hundreds of them will be killed by motor vehicles. This is a significant depletion, especially in the context of the increasing instability of insect populations during our intensified climate crisis.

The Colorado Department of Transportation is currently engaged in talks with biologists at the Butterfly Pavilion. This is a great sign. However, this can’t end at talk. CDOT must commit to action in accordance with the public interest and advice from biologists. According to vice president of science and conservation for the Butterfly Pavilion Rich Reading, a very low fence bent at the top with culverts underneath the road would be a cost effective way to funnel spiders out of harms way, while providing additional benefit to lizards and amphibians. This is a simple long-term investment in the health of Colorado’s environment. Action must be taken to build an infrastructure that preserves a balanced ecosystem for future generations.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Linda Tanner


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