A young girl and her family were left shaken after a large sea lion grabbed her and pulled her underwater near Vancouver.
The girl was sitting on a dock in Richmond watching the animal in the water before it grabbed her dress and pulled her into the water.
Onlookers at Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf screamed and a man thought to be a relative of the girl jumped in and lifted her to safety. She appeared physically unharmed.
The sea lion appeared to have been drawn to the dock by people who were throwing bread crumbs into the water.
The incident was caught on video by a student, Michael Fujiwara.
“The sea lion actually attracted a lot of attention from the visitors there, including the young girl,” he told the Vancouver Sun. “She and her family, I guess, they came, they started feeding the animal bread crumbs or whatever it was, and then I guess the animal got a little too comfortable.
“They were pretty shaken up,” Fujiwara told CBC News. “Her family were just in shock.”
Prof Andrew Trites, the director of the marine mammal research unit at the University of British Columbia, said the sea lion was not at fault.
“My first reaction to the video is just how stupid some people can be to not treat wildlife with proper respect,” he told CBC News. “This was a male California sea lion. They are huge animals. They are not circus performers. They’re not trained to be next to people.”
Trites said the sea lion in the video looked like it was used to having people feed it.
“The little girl has her back to the sea lion and it would appear that the sea lion sees part of her dress, thinks it’s food, reaches up, grabs at the food and pulls her in by the dress. But it wasn’t food, of course.”
Trites said he hoped the video of the encounter would teach people not to feed wild animals like sea lions.
He said: “You keep your distance. Watch the animals, but let wildlife be wildlife.”