Deep, deep down, the Canal is a creepy place. Check out these tentacles! This octopus carcass washed up in our tumble farm a week ago… it was only half intact and had been chewed on by crabs and other critters.
Giant Pacific Octopi usually live about 60 feet deep, so we never see them on our farm, or at least never alive. They’re probably the largest octopus species on the planet. The females are terminal spawners, a fancy way of saying they die after they reproduce. (Read the Seattle Aquarium blog for more info… on Valentine’s Day they released their female octopus into the wild so she could spawn. And then die, romantically.) So that’s our completely non-scientific and hopefully not-too-wishful explanation for this carcass…. we think she spawned, died, and washed up on our beach.
Octopus eat shellfish (oysters, shrimp crab, etc.. maybe all those omega-3s are what make octopus so smart??), fish, and small sharks. Aquarium keepers have documented octopus eating dogfish (=small sharks) in captivity, and scuba divers have found dogfish bones in the middens of octopus lairs down deep. (And isn’t a dark bone-filled octopus lair a spooky concept!) We don’t have a picture of a dogfish, but here’s a photo of a ratfish we found a few years ago. Seems like if something eats dogfish it’s likely to eat ratfish also?
(Honestly, this whole dogfish digression was really an excuse to post the ratfish picture, because the ratfish is a truly silly looking creature and we thought you might need a ratfish reminder).
Back to the creature at hand: every once in a while shrimpers in the Canal will pull up an octopus in a shrimp pot… this normally ends badly, because moving quickly from 150 feet down (or so) to the surface typically kills the octopus. On one epic occasion in 2009, however, we accidentally caught an octopus that was hanging out on our tideflats. We kept him in a spare tank for a day, and then he escaped. Tricky little guy.
Amazingly enough, it’s legal to hunt octopus. But if you do decide to stalk and kill a giant pacific octopus, don’t do it on a crowded seattle beach or in a place popular with sight-seeing scuba divers, or you’ll find yourself making news for all the wrong reasons (like receiving death threats).