DEAR JOAN: We captured a tarantula on our driveway today, approximately 2 to 3 inches at the abdomen. We want to get rid of it. Who can we call?

Jerry C.

Bay Area

DEAR JERRY: You don't need to call anyone -- just take it out in the yard and let it go.

Tarantulas have this bad, but hopefully changing, reputation as being really dangerous animals. They aren't, at least not to us, and then only if we deserve it.

They do have very long fangs and those fangs do contain a venom. If you get bit, chances are it's going to hurt like the dickens. It won't, however, kill you.

Wandering tarantula.
Wandering tarantula. (Reader contributed)

If you get bitten by a tarantula the first question you should ask yourself is why you got near its fangs in the first place.

At this time of year -- September and October -- male tarantulas are out looking for a good time. They leave their dens to find sweethearts, mate and return home, if they don't meet up with a predator on the way.

Tarantulas are rather docile unless annoyed. We just need to let them be.

DEAR JOAN: Is there any validity to the old tale that a larger than usual production of acorns means we are in for a very cold and wet winter?

We have lived in the same place for 26 years, and back in the late 1990s we had a very large crop of acorns followed by the wettest winter we have had since we moved here.

This year we are seeing more acorns by far then we have seen since then. What do you think?

Rick Buxton

Alamo

DEAR RICK: I say let's keep our fingers crossed for lot of rain -- we need it.

A heavy acorn production year, called a mast, is not a sign of things to come but a sign of things that have been.

Every four to 10 years, the oak trees have a mast year, producing oodles of acorns. The last mast we had was back in 2007, and from what I've seen, it looks like we're in one again.

A number of factors come into play including frosts, drought, spring rain and insects.

We had frost this past winter, which could have knocked back the population of insects and allowed the acorns to flourish, or the dry spring may have sent the oak trees into self-preservation mode, churning out more acorns than usual.

The most frequent cause of a mast in valley and blue oaks is a warm April when pollination occurs. I guess we aren't the only ones that get spring fever.

In live oaks, production is based on how much rain we had two years before.

Whatever the reason, it's good news for deer, mice, squirrels, rats, jays, quail, pigeons, woodpeckers and others creatures that live in or visit our yards. If we do have a hard winter, the ample supply will keep our little friends fed.

If you're worried about mighty oak trees sprouting from those little acorns, there's not much to be concerned about. Only one in 10,000 germinate. The rest of the acorns are eaten by critters before they have a chance to get started.

Those that do sprout, however, put roots down quickly. If one comes up where you don't want it, act fast to remove it.

Contact Joan Morris at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com or 1700 Cavallo Road, Antioch, CA 94509. Follow her at Twitter.com/AskJoanMorris.