British Columbia·Video

Tentacles vs. talons: Octopus battles bald eagle in video shot off B.C. coast

John Ilett and his colleagues were working at a fish farm off the coast of northern Vancouver Island this week when they spotted a bald eagle in the death grip of an octopus and filmed the unfolding drama.

'This thing dwarfed the eagle and completely wrapped it up,' says witness

A screen shot of a bald eagle in the death grip of an octopus caught on camera off Quatsino, B.C. (John Ilett)

John Ilett and his colleagues were working at a fish farm off the coast of northern Vancouver Island this week when they witnessed a knock-down drag-out fight between an octopus and bald eagle and caught the battle on video.

The crew was in their boat finishing up work late Monday afternoon near Quatsino, B.C., when Ilett said they "heard a lot of screeching, a lot of splashing sounds" and saw a bald eagle drowning in the death grip of a large octopus.

"They were grappling and struggling in the water," said Ilett on CBC's On The Island. "The thing dwarfed the eagle and completely wrapped it up."

The crew didn't know if they should intervene, but eventually decided to step in and save the bird.

While a colleague's camera rolled, Ilett took a pike pole and "slowly peeled the octopus off" its prey:

Aquaculture employees found an octopus attacking a bald eagle in Quatsino Bay, B.C., off the northwest coast of Vancouver Island, in December 2019. 0:54

"That gave the eagle just enough time to break free and swim to shore," said Ilett, adding the bird spent about 10 minutes gathering itself on the shoreline before flying off.

"At the end of the day, both animals are alive and went their separate ways," said Ilett, adding the octopus dived out of view after the eagle was freed.

Ilett did not see how the bird became trapped in the tentacles, but guesses the raptor tried to pluck the octopus from the ocean before realizing how big it was and becoming prey itself. 

"I've been out here for many years and I've seen a lot of stuff, but this ranks up there with one of the coolest for sure," said Ilett.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story provided incorrect information in a caption about the location of Quatsino Sound. In fact, it is on the northwestern shoreline of Vancouver Island.
    Dec 11, 2019 8:47 PM PT

With files from On The Island

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