LEWISVILLE Known as the 'Spider Queen,' Lewisville resident Leah Patton is preparing to release nearly 2,000 tarantulas into the wild. An act, she says, that will help preserve the important species.

'Right now, I have about 1,700 tarantulas,'Patton said.

Her fascination with spiders began 30 years ago. She has been collecting native area tarantulas, whose habitats are being destroyed by development. The spiders, once common in North Texas, are slowly disappearing.

But that could soon change, if the folks who run the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area have their way.

They came to Patton with a big idea: repopulating their 2,000 acre habitat with tarantulas.

'When you start pulling species out of the system, the entire system is in our ecosystem,' said Ken Steigman, LLELA Director.

It's not the first time the learning area has taken steps to restore wildlife to its habitat. The tarantulas follow wild turkeys and quail. On Tuesday night, Patton planned to release 200 tiny tarantulas, hoping the spiders will once again become a common sight here.

'You hear a lot of times, 'I don't want anything that's got less than two legs or more than four,''said Patton.'People are fearful of snakes, they're fearful of spiders. They don't understand how good a spider is for your environment.'

Steigman says spiders get a bad rap. He blames people's fear.

'And their first impulse is to step on that,'said Steigman, stomping his foot on the ground.'And of course, that's really out of ignorance. In the North Texas ecosystem, spiders provide balance by eating smaller insects considered a nuisance, like mosquitoes.'

Usually, only one out of every 100 tarantulas released into the environment survive. That's why this project could take up to ten years to repopulate the area with tarantulas.


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