Mother scorpion hides out in monument visitor center

If you picture a caring, attentive mother, a scorpion is probably not the creature that will pop into your head, but that may not be fair to our creepy-crawly neighbors.

Last Saturday, Colorado National Monument rangers discovered a northern desert hairy scorpion in the visitor center keeping cool in a cardboard box filled with monument merchandise. On her back she was carrying eight or nine baby scorpions.

"(Baby scorpions) will stay on mom's back for a couple of molts," Colorado State University Extension Entomologist Meredith Shrader said. "Eventually, they get big enough and go off on their own. Scorpions are pretty good moms."

In addition to protecting their offspring on their backs for their first few weeks of life, scorpions are some of the only arachnids to give live birth, Shrader said.

Despite their reputation as deadly monsters, the scorpions that reside in western Colorado not deliver deadly stings. The effect is on par with a bee sting, according to a Colorado State University fact-sheet.

Colorado National Monument Chief of Interpretation Arlene Jackson said that finding scorpions in and around the visitor center and other buildings in the area isn't a common occurrence, but does happen.

"They like getting into dark places during the day," Jackson said. "Every once in a while we'll find one in the visitor center trying to get out of the sun."

When that happens, rangers carefully remove the scorpion, or in this case scorpions. Jackson said it is similar to finding a spider in your house. Shrader said finding a scorpion in your home is rare, since they typically like quiet places to hide. However, if you do find one in your home Shrader said not to panic.

"If your first reaction is to squish it, I don't mind," Shrader said. "If you don't mind having it around you can move it outside. They aren't on the hunt for toddler toes."

What scorpions are on the hunt for is mostly insects or other arachnids, though the desert hairy scorpion can get large enough to prey on small lizards, Shrader said. They are nocturnal and hide in cool, shady areas during the day, making them hard to find.

Jackson said to be careful not to stick your hands under rocks or other areas you can't see as a precaution when visiting the monument.

"You kind of have to look for them," Shrader said. "People will go out at night with a black light because they (scorpions) fluoresce, but they're not easy to find."

In the past, Colorado National Monument has had ranger-led night hikes with black lights, but this season does not have any planned, Jackson said.

The monument's daily ranger-led Up Close and Personal talks at 2 p.m. at the visitor center touch on a wide range of subjects that can include local wildlife such as scorpions.

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