Rare Encounter: Harbor Seal Feasts on Giant Pacific Octopus Captured in Astonishing Footage of Oceanic Predation

Rare footage shows harbour seal snacking on a giant Pacific octopus

The harbour seal is the world’s most widely distributed pinniped, and that’s not the only reason it’s also among the most familiar: Throughout its vast Northern Hemisphere range, it commonly loafs and lolls about in the same inshore waters we humans like to frequent.

Much of the time that one spies this smallish, speckled, über-cute seal, it’s in laidback, even downright lethargic mode: bobbing all whiskered and dewy-eyed in the surf, or hauled out on rocks, beaches, or piers looking as if it’s doing its best imitation of a sausage.

It’s also easy to think of the plump little harbour seal as a prey animal: an almost bitesized morsel for orcas and white sharks – and even, at or around haul-outs, vulnerable to coastal grey wolves and brown bears.

But give this wee sea-beastie its due. Harbour seals aren’t just sluglike nappers, great-white popcorn, and orca footballs: They’re also versatile and efficient marine predators, active hunters of a whole array of fishes as well as crustaceans and mollusks. And while it well outsizes most of its own prey, the seal also sometimes sets its sights on pretty hefty quarry.

Pretty hefty multi-armed quarry, in the case of some rare footage nabbed on January 21st in the coastal brine of British Columbia. Divers off Nanoose Bay, Vancouver Island found themselves with front-row seats to a harbour seal’s vigorous attacks upon a giant Pacific octopus:

The giant Pacific octopus is, along with the seven-arm octopus, the biggest of its kind: Large specimens can well exceed 45 kilograms (100 pounds) and, exceptionally, span close to six metres (20 feet) across. We’re talking about as close to the mythical kraken as you can get (if you take that sea monster to be a gargantuan octopus rather than squid).


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