Tarantula found crossing road on Ottawa residential street

A family in west Ottawa made a rare discovery driving along a residential road: A Chilean tarantula crossing the street.

'You never know how it's going to pan out, and in this case, it really was a tarantula,' zoo curator says

Matt Korhonen of Little Ray's Reptile Zoo says there's a "one-per-cent chance" someone would ever spot a tarantula crossing a road in Ottawa. 1:30

Anne Beck and her daughter Julia were driving along a residential street in the Ottawa community of Carp on Monday afternoon, returning home from a neighbourhood bakery, when Julia spotted a tarantula crossing the road.

No, no, Anne said, thinking it was probably a Halloween decoration that blew off someone's porch.

No such luck.

Anne Beck, right, and her daughter, Julia Beck, left, found the tarantula. Anne Beck stood guard while her daughter went home to get a cooler to put it in. (CBC News)

After getting out of their vehicle, they discovered it was indeed a tarantula, in this case, a rather gentle female specimen from the arid climes of Chile that was eventually returned to its owners.

Anne stood guard to prevent the creature from getting squished, taking questions and submitting to photographs from curious drivers, while her daughter went home to fetch a cooler.

They used the brush end of a winter ice scraper to push the tarantula inside.

It wasn't having it.

"That's when the fangs came out, and we went, 'Oh my God!'" Anne said in an interview on Wednesday.

1st such call in zoo's history

After getting the tarantula safely in the cooler, the pair called Little Ray's Reptile Zoo. It's the first resort of many Ottawa-area residents who find exotic pets such as snakes, runaway turtles and even the occasional wild black widow spider.

But this was the first time in the zoo's 15-year history that it ever got a call about a tarantula found crawling through the streets.

Matt Korhonen, who works at Little Ray's Reptile Zoo, says the zoo gets a lot of calls about exotic animals that turn out to be unsubstantiated, but not this time. (CBC News)

"We got the call that there's a tarantula loose in Carp, to which your first response is, 'Meh, probably not.' ... We get calls all the time, 'There's a rattlesnake under my bed,' and in the majority of cases, it's somebody who probably forgot to take their meds that day, that type of thing," said Matt Korhonen, a curator at the zoo.

"But on the flipside, you treat everything very seriously and you never know how it's going to pan out, and in this case, it really was a tarantula."

Korhonen had no problem letting the tarantula crawl all over his arms. The trick, he said, is to get a sense of its mood first, the same way you might gauge the mood of a spouse.

"You can come home and look at your wife and know if she's in a great mood or a terrible mood, and you can look at this spider and again, just read its body language, and you know immediately if it's in a good mood or not," Korhonen said.

Not so sure you can accurately decipher a tarantula's mood? Here are some tips to save for later — you know, just in case.

Tarantula bad mood danger signs

  1. Apparently a grumpy tarantula will rub the hairs on its abdomen with its legs. The hairs are similar to fibreglass, and can cause itchiness and other skin reactions in varying degrees, depending on the type of tarantula.
  2. The tarantula will rear up, like a horse but with more legs than a horse, of course, and show you its disgusting fangs.
  3. Fang strike delivery. If this occurs, you must have really screwed something up.

It's rare to find a tarantula because it typically finds safe places to hide and even burrow underground, Korhonen said.

"There's probably a one per cent chance that this spider should have ever been found. Whoever owns this spider should buy a lottery ticket," he said.

Tarantula reunited with owner Wednesday

Little Ray's posted a message online and met Wednesday with the tarantula's owners.

It turns out the spider has been a family pet in the Carp neighbourhood for eight years.

During some home renovations, its owners moved the tarantula terrarium out of the house and into the garage, where the spider capitalized on a loosened hatch to make its escape.

The family told the zoo they're glad to have the tarantula back and are promising to keep a lid on it.

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