PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Haystack Rock Awareness Program in Cannon Beach has received reports of beached octopuses in the past, but they’ve always turned out to be crabs, starfish or other sea creatures. 

So, on Wednesday, when a visitor to the beach reported an octopus had washed ashore, program employees were a bit skeptical. 

“We usually take that with a grain of salt,” said Jolene Magee, lead interpreter for the Haystack Rock Awareness Program, “so we weren’t expecting to see that by any means.” 

When a staff member responded to the place the beached animal had been reported, between Haystack Rock and The Needles, they were surprised to see a giant Pacific octopus trying to get back to the water. 

“It was struggling to get there though because of how much sand build-up there was. Every time a wave came, it was pushing it back a little further, so it wasn’t able to propel itself… the water just wasn’t deep enough,” Magee explained. 

Octopuses can survive outside of water for 20 to 30 minutes, but the Haystack Rock Awareness Program didn’t know how long it had already been stranded by the time they found it. They quickly jumped into action to try and save it. 

Magee was part of the effort to get the octopus back in the water. She said they grabbed a big plastic sign and intended to push it into the sand below the octopus and elevate it enough so it would roll into the water. 

When this didn’t work, they instead used the sign and their boots to create a barrier preventing the octopus from moving any higher up the shore. They didn’t want to touch the animal, so Magee said this was the best way to encourage it to move in the right direction. 

Eventually, it reached deeper water and Magee said it looked strong as it swam away. 

“We don’t typically expect to see them. It can absolutely happen but that was definitely not what I woke up expecting to see on the beach that day. It’s not very common,” she said. 

The Haystack Rock Awareness Program is a program funded by the city of Cannon Beach. The program offers a variety of services including private tours, field trips, online education, and volunteer opportunities. Its staff also responds to stranded or injured wildlife. 

They work with partner organizations like Seaside Aquarium and the Wildlife Center of the North Coast in Astoria. Mainly, they respond to bird rescues, but if marine life needs immediate help in Cannon Beach, they’ll jump into action. 

  • The shadow of an octopus off shore after safely returning to the water after it had been beached.
  • An octopus in shallow water close to shore in Cannon Beach while two people from the Haystack Rock Awareness Program try to help.
  • An octopus in shallow water close to shore in Cannon Beach

“We do have some training on how to handle those situations and if we can’t handle it, then we can reach out to other fish and wildlife authorities at the Seaside Aquarium,” said Mylasia Miklas, communications coordinator for the Haystack Rock Awareness Program. 

She said if anyone comes across an injured or stranded animal in an area that doesn’t have a stewardship program like Haystack Rock Awareness Program, they should call Oregon State Police at 1-800-452-7888. They’ll contact the stranding network responder in the area. 

The tide was very low on the coast Wednesday, which could explain how the octopus ended up on the beach. Thankfully for that cephalopod, observant beachgoers reported it right away and helped get it back into the water.