Wolf Spiders in California: Everything You Need to Know

Written by Brandi Allred
Updated: November 3, 2022
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California is home to redwood trees, rattlesnakes, and dozens of species of spiders. There are even wolf spiders in California—so named because they’re said to hunt like wolves. California is also home to the venomous black widow, brown widow, desert recluse, and yellow sac spiders. Luckily, none of California’s wolf spiders pose any threat to humans. 

So, the next time you see a wolf spider in California, take a moment to observe this incredible hunter in its natural habitat. And, if you find an unwelcome visitor in your home, catch it, and place it outside, where it can continue to prey on the bugs that would otherwise bother you. Now, let’s take a closer look at just what kinds of wolf spiders you might run into in California.

What is a Wolf Spider?

What Do Wolf Spiders Eat?

Wolf spiders belong to the Lycosidae family of arachnids, so named after the Greek word for wolf.

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Calling something a ‘wolf spider’ actually refers to a whole host of spiders rather than one species in particular. There are actually almost 3,000 species of wolf spiders all over the world. There are at least six types of wolf spiders in California. Wolf spiders do not spin webs. Instead, they chase their prey down, like, well, wolves. Some species dig burrows to hide in, and from there, they ambush any bug unfortunate enough to walk by. Let’s explore the six types of wolf spiders in California.

Six Common Wolf Spiders in California

1. Funnel Web Wolf Spiders

funnel web wolf spider

These spiders have long, hairy legs and abdomens.

©Vijin Varghese/Shutterstock.com

Unlike most wolf spiders in California, the funnel-web wolf spider actually spins funnel-shaped webs. These webs are always on the ground, so you’re not likely to run into one. Female funnel web wolf spiders spend most of their time in or near their webs, hunting and reproducing. Males, on the other hand, live just long enough to mate before dying

2. Schizocosa mccooki

Schizocosa mccooki

They have light brown legs and light stripes running down their cephalothorax and abdomen.

©Eugene Zelenko / CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

They might not have a common name, but these wolf spiders in California, known as Schizocosa mccooki, are fairly common. You’re most likely to spot a mccooki wolf spider in an open meadow or grassland. They’re harmless to humans, and hunt by actively chasing down insects, rather than building funnel webs. Mccooki wolf spiders have light brown bodies with intricately patterned cephalothoraxes. And, they’re no small fries; these wolf spiders can grow to over three inches across.

3.Koch’s Wolf Spider

Koch’s wolf spiders in California grow to just under an inch across. Females famously dig burrows just for their eggs, which they fiercely guard until hatching. These spiders have dark brown bodies covered in light brown hair. Their most distinguishing feature is the light brown stripe on their cephalothorax that separates two dark brown stripes. Koch’s wolf spiders don’t generally come indoors, they’re most likely to be seen outside in areas with plenty of cover. 

4. Allocosa subparva

These wolf spiders in California occur almost entirely outdoors, far from human habitation. They have no common name, only the latin ‘Allocosa subparva’. Subparva lives in forested areas, often close to water. They have black bodies with amber-striped legs. Their cephalothoraxes are black, but their abdomens have a recognizable tan splotch on the top. Unlike most wolf spiders, subparva has an almost hairless appearance. These wolf spiders rarely bite humans and lack any harmful venom. They hunt by running after their prey until it tires. Adults grow to less than an inch across.

5. Shoreline Wolf Spider

beach wolf spider

Also known as the beach wolf spider, these hairy spiders are specially adapted to blend in with sandy environments.

©Simone Morris/Shutterstock.com

As you might have guessed from their name, shoreline wolf spiders in California inhabit coastal areas like beaches and tidelands. They occasionally come indoors in the spring but never stray too far from the beach. These wolf spiders have light brown bodies with legs striped dark brown and light brown. Like most wolf spiders, they have a hairy appearance. However, shoreline wolf spiders are actually venomous and can deliver a painful bite if provoked. Luckily, their bites are not life-threatening.

6. Hogna antelucana

These wolf spiders are some of the prettiest arachnids in California.

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Lacking a common name, Hogna antelucana is nonetheless one of the most fascinating wolf spiders in California. These spiders have yellowish, hairy bodies with long legs and distinct markings. Their abdomens have bright yellow patterning, while their cephalothoraxes have dark brown and tan striping. The largest adults grow to over an inch across. Instead of actively hunting, these wolf spiders ambush prey from prepared burrows.

Are California Wolf Spiders Venomous?

In general, wolf spiders in California are not venomous. However, certain species, like the shoreline wolf spider, possess mild venom. Not to worry though, their venom poses no threat to humans. Wolf spiders will however bite if threatened, particularly if people try to pick them up or handle them. Bites can become red, swollen, and painful.

Where do Wolf Spiders Live in California?

Wolf spiders primarily stay outdoors, they rarely come inside.

©viktori-art/Shutterstock.com

The wolf spiders in California don’t want to come into your house, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never see one indoors. Instead, these spiders tend to stay outside and may be found in forests, meadows, beaches, or other outdoor locales. They often live under dead trees, grass, rocky areas, or in piles of firewood. Burrowing wolf spiders prefer areas with good access to the ground, where they can dig their burrows.

Are Wolf Spiders Common in California?

Wolf spiders are large, hairy, and generally dark, all of which makes for a truly terrifying spider. But, you can relax—they’re no more common than any other type of spider in California. And, you’re much more likely to see one outside than you are in your home.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Will E. Davis/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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