Brian Scott, NBC 5 Denton County Reporter
A group of Texas Brown Tarantulas was set free at the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area Thursday night.
The "spider queen" is releasing hundreds of tarantulas into the wild in North Texas.
Local spider expert Leah Patton has been collecting and raising baby spiders for the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area.
"We've been very, very careful to make sure that what we used in our breeding program is native to this direct area," she said.
The first group of 3-month to 1-year-old Texas brown tarantulas was set free at the preserve on Thursday night.
"We're planning on releasing about 200 at this time," Patton said.
One of LLELA's main goals is to preserve and restore wild species -- even down to these tiny crawlers.
"Not too many people think of tarantulas, but they're important in the ecosystem, and they're another element of these ecosystems that are local to North Texas that are disappearing, and they're not near as common as they used to be," LLELA Director Ken Steigman said.
The group hopes that the babies, which are no bigger than a fingernail, will grow into large tarantulas that can contribute to the ecosystem by feeding on grasshoppers and other insects.
Patton has rescued tarantulas from several sites throughout North Texas where they lost their homes to development or invasive species such as fire ants, some of the main reasons why the spiders aren't as common in the Metroplex as they once were.
"The numbers are severely, severely declined," she said.
LLELA is also inviting the public to "adopt" a tarantula and personally set it free at their next round of releases, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
And Patton and LLELA hope to release more of their eight-legged friends next year to continue to boost the population and educate the public about tarantulas.
"We're making some effort to go ahead, because we know this is the right species, because we know this is its native area, that they might be able to make a comeback," Patton said.