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SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: Save the Tree Octopus | Commentary by Dianne Erskine Hellrigel | 11-13-2016
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DianneErskineHellrigel“Help Save the Endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus from Extinction.”

This is the headline of the website that caught my attention. My first reaction was, no way. But here was this great website full of the details of this crazy tree octopus. The website stated that its scientific name was Octopus paxarbolis and that it could be found in the temperate rainforests of the Olympic peninsula.

Their habitat was described as being on the eastern side of the Olympic mountains, adjacent to the Hood Canal. Could this possibly be the first creature that crawled out of the ocean to become a land animal?

The further I read, I discovered they were both land and water creatures. The web site stated that because of the extreme moisture in the area, the habitat was well suited for the octopus. (At this point, they used the word, “octopuses” instead of octopi, but I let it pass as a mistake anyone could have made.

octopus04Apparently, the tree octopus is intelligent and inquisitive and well suited to arboreal adaptation, being able to pull itself along tree branches by instinctively using “tentaculation.” The tree octopus’ limbs were described not as mere limbs but sensory organs, capable of sensing its environment and its “footing,” if you will, as the octopus climbs along the tree branches in search of food.

Far away from its original ocean habitat, the tree octopus developed a taste for insects, frogs, rodents and bird eggs. Their eyesight on land is comparable to human eyesight, enabling them to see and hunt their prey.

The tree octopus, unable to speak, displays emotions through the use of color. Red, as you might anticipate, indicates anger; white, fear. Their normal color is a mottled brown which they use as camouflage while in the trees.

The tree octopus migrates back to the ocean every year near Puget Sound to mate in the Hood Canal. The young stay in the water until they migrate into the forest to begin their adult lives.

octopus01The tree octopus is not officially listed on the endangered species list. I checked. The website claimed they were critically endangered, and people were lobbying to get it placed on the endangered species list because their numbers were falling due to logging, decimation of habitat and the encroachment of man. They also mentioned the predation of house cats in the forest. They then cited other tree octopi that have become extinct including the Douglas octopus and the red-ringed madrona sucker. These special octopi became prized by the fashion industry, apparently, and their skins were used as decoration on a variety of men’s and women’s clothing. The use of skins was outlawed, but not before it was too late to save these two beautiful octopi.

octopus02Efforts are being made to preserve the remaining tree octopi and educate uncaring loggers who claim they are a nuisance because they favor the old growth and most valuable trees. Myths abound in the area about the tree octopus attacking humans, distressing damsels and entangling the lumberjacks.

These misunderstood and gentle creatures should not be subjected to the practice of tree octopus eradication. Please help save the tree octopus. If you care enough to help save the tree octopus, please write a letter to your congressional representative.

Writer’s note: This was an Internet hoax that was started in 1998 by a man named Lyle Azpato. It caused quite an uproar, especially in the Pacific Northwest. People began claiming to have seen them in the wild. Bottom line, don’t believe everything you read – especially on the Internet.

 

Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy. Contact Dianne through communityhikingclub.org or at zuliebear@aol.com.

 

octopus03

 

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8 Comments

  1. Lou F says:

    This is a hoax. Either way I have enjoyed many of your past writings and thank you for your efforts! Blessings, Lou

  2. Ryan Connor Ryan Connor says:

    I have one of these as a pet

  3. Denise Whatley says:

    Always love it when the myth is, once again, propagated. Do note, however, that octopuses IS the preferred plural of octopus. Discussion, video and dictionary references here:
    https://www.tonmo.com/threads/is-octopi-the-correct-plural-of-octopus.4637/

  4. Lew Latka Lew Latka says:

    If paint it purple Detroit fans will appreciate it!!

  5. Matt Randall says:

    Good article Dianne and a point that needs to be pointed out to everyone over and over and over and over again. The internet is NOT a new source. Facebook is NOT a news source….

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Apparently, the tree octopus is intelligent and inquisitive and well suited to arboreal adaptation, being able to pull itself along tree branches by instinctively using “tentaculation.” Far away from its original ocean habitat, the tree octopus developed a taste for insects, frogs, rodents and bird eggs. Their eyesight on land is comparable to human eyesight, enabling them to see and hunt their prey.

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