A large octopus tangling with a bald eagle looked like an unfair fight, but John Ilett was at first ready to let nature take its course.
The scene played out about 4 p.m. Monday, when work was just finishing up for the day at a Mowi Canada West fish farm near Quatsino on northern Vancouver Island.
“We heard lots of splashing and a screeching sound coming from behind one of the float buildings,” said Ilett, manager of the fish farm. “When we went around to investigate, we saw a full-sized eagle completely wrapped up in a giant octopus — something that you don’t think you’ll ever see.
“I’ve seen octopus and I’ve seen eagles, but I’ve never seen them grappling like that.”
Ilett said he wasn’t sure how to respond.
“At first, we’re just watching and we didn’t know if we should intervene or not, you know because it is Mother Nature,” he said. “But we were watching this and the octopus was trying to drown the eagle, and we couldn’t just stand there.”
So Ilett made contact with the octopus using a pike pole, “and basically peeled it off the eagle.”
That was enough for the eagle to make its escape.
“It gave the eagle enough time to swim to shore and dry off, so at the end of the day, both animals are alive and parted their ways,” Ilett said. “We actually felt pretty good about ourselves stepping in.”
He said he is privileged to see a lot of wildlife in the remote area.
“I’ve been out here a long time, and through my job out here, I get these amazing opportunities to see Mother Nature, but this one probably ranks pretty high on my list of cool things to see.”
One thing that came as a surprise was the sheer size of the octopus, he said.
“It was probably over four feet long,” said Ilett, who suspects the two creatures became entangled after the eagle flew down to try to make a meal of the octopus.
“It tried to grab it with its talons and didn’t realize how big it was, and the octopus just wrapped it and was basically trying to dive under the water with it.
“It was a pretty amazing situation, for sure.”
- Jeff Bell/Times Colonist