The Tree Octopus site is old. I really doubt it fools many students anymore. Yet, it is still getting publicity. See ‘Tree octopus’ is latest evidence the internet is making kids dumb, says group. I much prefer the Fresh Water Whales.
From the site:
Pearson's release explained that the Department of Education funded the study and that it was administered by Dr. Donald Leu, a former teacher and "national authority on integrating technology into instruction." Leu's study highlighted fallacious reports on the fate of the "tree octopus" -- an allegedly endangered species roaming the treetops of the Pacific Northwest -- as a key illustration of this baleful trend.
Researchers on Leu's team asked a group of students to hunt down information on the critter, which of course does not exist. But the same researchers pulled a bit of trickery on the students -- they directed them to a website dedicated to saving the mythical tree octopus from extinction. And presto: the kids taking part in the study fell for the hoax and even continued to believe in the tree octopus after the study's leaders explained that there was no such thing.