A tarantula crossing the road led to a motorcycle crash that hospitalized a 24-year-old Canadian man on Saturday in Death Valley National Park.
The man was driving a motorcycle eastbound on California State Route 190 near Towne Pass when he collided with the back of a camper van, according to a statement from park spokesperson Abby Wines.
The camper van, driven by a Swiss couple, had braked suddenly when the couple spotted the tarantula in the roadway ahead of them. The motorcycle rider was unable to stop in time and crashed into the van’s rear end.
The unidentified Canadian man sustained serious but non-life threatening injuries in the collision. He was transported by emergency personnel to Desert View Hospital in Pahrump for treatment.
Remarkably, the tarantula at the center of the incident was unharmed. After causing the camper van to brake, it safely made its way across the road.
Park officials believe the tarantula was likely a desert tarantula (Aphonopelma chalcodes), one of about 50 species native to the American Southwest. Males of the species leave their underground burrows in the fall and venture out in search of mates.
“Please drive slowly, especially going down steep hills in the park,” said Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds, who responded to the accident scene. “Our roads still have gravel patches due to flood damage, and wildlife of all sizes are out.”
Parts of Death Valley National Park have only recently reopened after extensive flooding in August from Tropical Storm Hilary. While the park partially reopened on October 15, numerous park roads remain closed due to damage.
Officials are urging drivers to use caution, particularly on descent, given the flood-related damage to roadways. Motorists should also be alert for wildlife crossing the roads.
Saturday’s tarantula-related crash marks yet another reminder of the hidden dangers that can await on Death Valley’s remote desert roads. Park visitors are advised to drive defensively and maintain safe speeds to avoid collisions with wildlife or unexpected natural obstacles in the road.
Cover photo courtesy of: Anne Reeves