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It's tarantula mating season in Northern California. Don't be surprised if you see one next time you go hiking. And right now, Mount Diablo State Park is crawling with them.

Naturalist Ken Lavin conducts the annual Tarantula hike at the park. Lavin says tarantulas may be ugly to some, but there are a lot of misconceptions that surround the spider. First off, tarantulas are not poisonous to humans.

"The number of people killed by tarantulas is zero. The number by scorpions is 3,000," said Lavin.

Every year around September and October, Mount Diablo becomes a love nest for tarantulas looking for that special mate. The best place to see one is near a female tarantula den. You will know you've found one because it'll be covered with webbing.

“Some scientists think the female sends out silk laced with spider perfume... pheromone," said Lavin.

It takes a keen eye to spot a tarantula. The males generally only come out at dusk. Tarantulas spend nearly all their lives hunting bugs out of their den. So, when you see a male roaming around, it's a special thing.Mating season is the last hurrah for male tarantulas. Come winter they will die, but females will stay in their den and live on. Sometimes female tarantulas live upwards of 20 years.

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John Bartell holds a tarantula. Despite their size and appearance, being bitten by one isn't fatal for humans.
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Tarantulas are found all over California, but Mount Diablo State Park is Northern California’s hotspot for the hairy arachnids. If you want to find one, take a weekend tour with Lavin.

"We have found up to a half dozen at a time. Usually you can at least find one," said Lavin.

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