As a kid I lived in the upper right corner of the United States, in New Hampshire, and as an adult I live in the upper left corner, in Washington State. 

This is a map of the United States. If it left out Alaska and Hawaii, it would be a map of the Continental U.S.

There may be three thousand miles separating one state from the other, but in many ways they are alike.  Same fast food, same big box stores, same shows on TV.  You have to look closely to spot the differences.

I love spotting the differences.

For one thing, the two states have some different types of plants, and some different animals.  You might see a chestnut tree growing in New Hampshire. You won’t see one in Washington.  The Washington woods are filled with salal berries.  Not a single salal berry grows anywhere in the state of New Hampshire.  Also, the Eastern Coyote is bigger than the Western Coyote.  Eastern Coyotes have some wolf DNA. They are very strong. 

Both states have coastline.  But New Hampshire’s coast is on the Atlantic Ocean, while Washington’s coast is on the Pacific.  That means the waters off Washington are part of the habitat of the Giant Pacific Octopus because the Giant Pacific Octopus only lives in the …

You understand.

Really, the Giant Pacific Octopus (I will call it the GPO for short) lives only in the northern Pacific, where the water is not too warm. Alaska, the west coast of Canada, Washington, Oregon, and California are the places it likes best in the U.S..  On the other side of the Pacific, the GPO can also be found near Korea and Japan.  

This map shows the parts of the Pacific Ocean that the GPO likes best.

The GPO is a benthic animal.  That means it lives on the ocean floor.  But even then, it is picky.  Not just anywhere on the ocean floor will do.  The GPO likes fairly shallow water. Fairly shallow.  No one has ever jumped off a dock in Puget Sound, landed on a Giant Pacific Octopus, and been whisked away on a fabulous undersea adventure. (Although that sounds like a book you should definitely write!)

So let’s make a list: Pacific Ocean. Not too hot. Fairly shallow. The seafloor needs to be loose sand and gravel.  There should be big rocks or boulders or something to serve as a den.

Tacoma, Washington is located around the middle of the GPO’s range and its water temperature is just right too. The water underneath the Tacoma Narrows Bridge is about 200 feet deep.  The current moves at 8.5 miles per hour.  Octo-Paradise!!

To make it even better, the artificial reef that splashed down in November 1940 when the original bridge fell created a perfect spot for GPO dens.  

The GPO likes to use camouflage to hide itself in its den.  It prefers a den with many entrances and exits.  Unless it is a mom guarding eggs, it usually moves on to a new den every few weeks.  With a strong beak, shellfish pose no problem and make up much of its diet.

Overall, the GPO doesn’t have a lot of the great defenses that the other sea creatures do.  However, the GPO is very smart. Its powerful brain is its best defense.  

I’ve got a powerful brain, like she said, but also I am just so stinkin’ handsome! See?

Exactly how “giant” is the Giant Pacific Octopus? 

On average they weigh about 132 pounds  The average length is just 16 feet across.  (Record sizes can get much bigger, of course, but averages are more useful and accurate to use overall.) 

132 pounds is less than the weight of an average adult. I mention this because for a lot of people, the Giant Pacific Octopus is a little scary.

This drawing proves that a lot of people feel frightened by octopus. Notice it is a drawing, not a photo! This is not something that a real GPO would do!

A lot of people wonder: Would a GPO eat a person?  

Not likely. 

For one, they are shy and reclusive, not aggressive like sharks. Plus, they don’t swim toward the surface, and people don’t hang out on the ocean floor.  Not to mention people are many, many times larger than their typical clam or crab dinner.  

Then there is the opposite question: Do people eat the Giant Pacific Octopus?

Yes, sometimes. But not in the United States.  Years ago, the GPO was used as bait for commercial fishing operations, but not anymore.  

Lastly, it is good to know that the Giant Pacific Octopus is not on the endangered species list! 

You can see why the GPO has a place in the hearts and minds of so many people.  There have been many wonderful paintings, drawings, books and movies inspired by them.

I wonder what kind of octo-inspired art you could make? I would love to see it!

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