Marine Science Center is studying dead octopus

A male Giant Pacific Octopus was found dead last week at the mouth of Liberty Bay. - Megan Stephenson / Herald
A male Giant Pacific Octopus was found dead last week at the mouth of Liberty Bay.
— image credit: Megan Stephenson / Herald

POULSBO — An octopus has washed up along Johnson Creek, a locale not known for octopus habitat.

Liberty Bay, however, is. Patrick Mus, director of the Marine Science Center in downtown Poulsbo, said he has heard of octopuses coming to the surface of Liberty Bay from Puget Sound, and if they find fresh water, like Johnson Creek, it's usually because of "happenstance," because the tide has pulled it along.

Jan Wold, the resident who found the octopus in her backyard, said that's what she thought happened. Last Thursday, she looked out and saw it in the creek, right before it enters Liberty Bay.

"I've never, ever seen an octopus wash up [here]," said Jan Wold, who has degrees in aquatic biology and fisheries.

Mus has. He said sometimes air bubbles will become trapped in the animal, or a release in carbon dioxide will cause it to float when it dies. He said he's seen octopus at the surface three or four times in the last 10 years.

After examining the octopus at Johnson Creek, Mus said it was an adult male Giant Pacific Octopus, about 11 feet long and when alive probably weighed up to 60 pounds. Part of one of its tentacles had been eaten off. Mus took the octopus back to the Marine Science Center for a necropsy.

Octopus like rocky outcroppings deep in the sea for them to hide, according to Rich Childers, a resource scientist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Because they live so deep (usually 215 feet down), when they die they just sink to the bottom. Still, he agrees with Mus that finding an octopus topside isn't anything to be "alarmed about."

Giant Pacific Octopus are the largest species of octopus in the world. The Marine Science Center currently has a young female on display.

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