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Woman hospitalized after selfie with octopus goes wrong

Friday, August 9th 2019, 5:50 pm - It was not worth the photo.

A word of advice: Do not try to put an octopus on your face for a photo opportunity, because it will retaliate.

A woman learned this lesson the hard way after she got bit by the aquatic animal during a fishing derby in Tacoma, Washington on August 2.

Jamie Bisceglia saw the opportunity to take a crazy picture and she jumped at it.

"It was a photo contest in the derby. So, crazy me, hindsight now and looking back, I probably made a big mistake," Bisceglia said.

Bisceglia decided to put the octopus on her face and pose for a photo. The animal retaliated by grabbing her with its suckers, and biting her in the face.

"It had barreled its beak into my chin and then let go a little bit and did it again," said Bisceglia. "It was a really intense pain when it went inside and it just bled, dripping blood for a long time."

Bisceglia claims the octopus was a smaller juvenile version of a giant Pacific octopus. According to a spokeswoman at the Point Defiance Aquarium, it could have also been a Pacific red octopus.

Both the species have a powerful beak, which they use to break and eat food. Their bite also contains a poisonous venom meant to immobilize their prey.

While the venom left Bisceglia in incredible pain, she refrained from going to the emergency room for two days.

Bisceglia is the owner of South Sound Salmon Sisters and wanted to keep on fishing for the remainder of the derby.

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Stock Photo by Elle Hughes from Pexels

"And I'm still in pain," said Bisceglia. "I'm on three different antibiotics. This can come and go, the swelling, for months they say."

She says the whole painful experience taught her a valuable lesson about handling a live octopus.

"This was not a good idea," said Bisceglia. "I will never do it again."

Being in close proximity to an octopus has its hazards, says Maddison Proudfoot, Animal Health Manager at the Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre in British Columbia.

“All octopuses have a structure in their body called a beak, which is very sharp and that’s how they kill and capture their prey. It’s definitely a health and safety concern for yourself, and also for them. Getting that close to them can either injure them, or If you’re not handling them with care, you can disrupt their natural behavior and patterns,” she adds.

Octopuses also have soft skin, and one might damage the octopus if handling it carelessly, says Dr. Jennifer Mather, an octopus expert and professor at the University of Lethbridge.


Dr. Mather says that octopuses are generally afraid of people.

“They will hide in a sheltering hole [and] turn camouflage hoping you can’t see them, or swim away while ejecting ink so you can’t see them go.”

It’s not necessarily a normal response for them to bite, adds Proudfoot. Unless they’re provoked, they can be pretty harmless to humans.

“They are predatory for certain invertebrates like crabs and prawns – they would never attack a larger mammal such as us, unless maybe in a defensive way.”


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