Shawnigan Lake photographer Laurie Milton was wandering the shores of Cherry Point Beach in Cobble Hill on May 10 doing what she loves: looking for wildlife to photograph.
“This is the time of year the osprey come down and go fishing for their flounder and the juvenile eagles and seals and otters and even killer whales are out in the bay, and of course the herons,” said the Cowichan Valley resident of 30 years.
Milton was on the hunt when she came upon something way more than she bargained for: an animal she’d never encountered before and likely won’t again.
“I was just walking along with my dog and I could see in the distance this orange grey blob,” she explained. “I honestly thought it was an old pile of rubbish or an old lifejacket buried in the sand.”
As soon as she got closer, she realized it was not at all as she suspected.
Milton had in fact stumbled upon a deceased Giant Pacific octopus.
“I’ve never seen anything this big before,” Milton said. “It was a really good size. Its head was two feet across, the legs had to be three-and-a-half to four feet long. The suction cups were bigger than a Toonie.”
Mesmerized, she paid her respects to the magnificent ocean creature and stood with it a while before carrying on.
“It was heartbreaking to see this because it was dead,” she admitted. From the information she’s gathered, Milton has cause to believe the animal was alive when it first washed up onto the shore.
“It was just sad,” she said, recognizing her great fortune to come across the huge creature. “I’ve never seen one. I don’t think many people get a chance to unless they’re scuba divers,” she said.
Since her find, Milton has learned the animals only live three to five years and they can grow even bigger than the one she saw.
“As big as it was, I was surprised to hear that they can grow even bigger than that,” she said.
While sad it had died, Milton has also learned that it could have just lived out its life cycle.
“If it was a female, apparently they lay their eggs and then they stay with their eggs until they hatch and then they die,” she explained.
If that’s the case, the octopus did her job and the ocean will have a new batch of baby Giant Pacific octopuses to keep an eye out for.