A stranded octopus has been safely returned to the ocean thanks in part to a resourceful girl who was enjoying a day at the beach with her family.
The giant Pacific octopus was found “twisting around on a mud flat” in a Washington state park on March 15, according to a social media post by the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
“This octopus was not making much headway as its body weight was too heavy outside its usual aquatic environment,” the research reserve wrote last week. “Additionally, the tide was going out leaving the octopus a great distance from the water.”
An unidentified family visiting the park from Canada had spotted the imperiled creature and alerted park ranger Brandon Hoekstra, the Skagit Valley Herald reported. Hoekstra in turn contacted the research reserve. Two employees, Annie England and Mira Lutz, headed out to help, along with volunteer Sean Petersmark.
When the trio got to the scene, they were surprised to see the octopus in such good condition.
“I wasn’t anticipating finding such an alive, healthy octopus,” England, an environmental educator, told NBC affiliate King 5 News.
The octopus, thought to be a female, had been kept alive by the family’s 10-year-old daughter, who used her sand bucket to keep the cephalopod wet.
“She was taking water with her little sand bucket, and she was filling it up and she was pouring it on top of the octopus,” said England.
That action was crucial because octopuses can’t survive for more than a few minutes out of water.
“It collapses their gills,” England explained.
England, Lutz and Petersmark were then able to get the octopus, which weighed an estimated 80 to 100 pounds, into a bin to be transported back to the sea. There, the octopus “slowly crept out and returned to the ocean,” the research reserve wrote in its post.
It’s not clear exactly how the octopus got stuck in the first place.
“We can only speculate how it ended up stranded on the beach,” the post read. “Maybe the tide caught it by surprise!”