About that tarantula...

Ever since I lived in New Mexico, I have admired tarantulas. They have shape and heft and maybe it's all that fur, but they don't seem as menacing as black widows. One summer dusk in the Sandia Mountains, an enormous tarantula walked through our yard. Each leg swung an articulated arc, slow motion and goofy, like a bad Japanese monster flick. No matter how many times we tried to point her in another direction, she returned to her chosen path - through the herb garden, over the dog dish and out into the cholla and chamisa.

Tarantulas are rare in the city and Eric Estrin's daughter, though she may have a slightly different view, was actually pretty lucky to see one. (Luckier still to have a dad who would set it free.) They come in a rainbow of colors, red and brown and grey and even blue. Because they're so big and slow and scary-looking, they've been dealt a tough hand. Tarantulas are easily captured and, as they're not dangerous to humans, are often kept in cages and aquariums as pets. But they're marvelous creatures and deserve better.

They have eight eyes. The North American ones don't build webs - they're carnivores who chase down their prey, mostly insects. The females can live to be 25 years old. They're victims of urban sprawl and even without adding humans to the equation, they've got lots of natural enemies, including lizards, snakes, a tarantula hawk and - who knows? - maybe even Pepto Bismol pink.

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