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The Milwaukee County Zoo welcomes a new giant Pacific octopus

Giant Pacific octopus

Posted February 2020

The Milwaukee County Zoo is excited to welcome a new giant Pacific octopus to the Aquatic & Reptile Center.  The giant Pacific octopus is a large marine cephalopod belonging to the genus Enteroctopus.

Zookeepers are fairly certain she is female and has been named Mini Muffin (a nod to MCZ’s former octopus, Egg McMuffin).  Her estimated age is 6-10 months old.

Octopuses tend to like enclosed dark places, so Muffin has been making sporadic appearances in public view, preferring to hide in the nooks and crannies of the habitat, and interacting with keepers in the open water above the exhibit, not visible to the public.  Mini Muffin can fit through any opening that her beak fits through.  At her current size, that means she can fit through any opening about the size of a quarter, which makes hiding rather easy.

When interacting with keepers, she likes mantle (head) rubs and playing tug of war with different enrichment items, or “toys.”  Because octopuses are highly intelligent and inquisitive animals, staff keep her engaged with different tasks like opening containers to obtain her food.

She’s fed a variety of seafood such as capelin, herring, squid and trout.  She’s fed every other day unless she comes out during the daytime hours.  When making appearances during the day, keepers will hand feed her, and she seems quite comfortable.  Keepers comment she’s incredibly strong and likes to hold onto their hands and pull hard as though she’s trying to pull them into the water!

Octopuses are generally nocturnal and do their hunting at night.  They use their arms, each covered with about 200 suckers, to find and hold their prey.  Depending on the type of prey, they may paralyze prey such as fish with a toxic saliva, and tear into it with their parrot-like beaks.  Their lifespan in the wild is 3 to 5 years, and typically die after breeding.

In the wild, giant Pacific octopus are found in the coastal North Pacific, along California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Alaska, Russia, Japan and Korean Peninsula.

Next time you’re at the Zoo, stop at the Aquatic & Reptile Center and try to spot Mini Muffin!