Tourists in national parks have been known to put themselves in danger at times, whether getting close to an animal that shouldn't be approached or escaping from one they've upset. Two visitors from Switzerland, however, caused a car accident while trying to prevent any harm to an animal on the road.
It wasn't a bear or bison crossing the road, but a desert tarantula. According to a statement from Death Valley National Park, the two tourists were driving in a camper van on Oct. 28 when the driver saw the hairy spider on the road and slammed on the brakes. The sudden stop caused a man on a motorcycle behind the camper to crash into the back of the vehicle.
The tourists were safe, but the motorcyclist was taken to a nearby hospital for injuries. As for the cause of the accident, all was well. "The spider walked away unscathed," the statement read.
Superintendent Mike Reynolds, a National Park Service employee who arrived first at the scene, warned visitors to be careful when driving their vehicles around the park. "Please drive slowly, especially going down steep hills in the park," he said. "Our roads still have gravel patches due to flood damage, and wildlife of all sizes are out."
Tarantulas usually spend their days and nights in underground burrows. They're most commonly seen by humans in the fall when older male tarantulas leave their burrows to look for a mate. The mating ritual sometimes resembles that of other insects like the praying mantis and black widow spider, where the female kills and eats the male after the deed is done. Even if a male doesn't become dinner during mating, they rarely live more than a few months after they reproduce.
"Tarantulas are slow moving and nonaggressive," the park statement said. While the spider are unsettling to look at and appear as though they could kill a human with their venom, a tarantula bite isn't deadly to people and is comparable to a bee sting.
The tourists might have helped the tarantula in question find love for one last time instead of ending its life as roadkill.