On Saturday, a particularly bold California sea lion pulled a little girl off the dock and into the water at Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf in Richmond, British Columbia. She was quickly recovered, and aside from the scare, seems to be relatively unscathed.
According to CNN, a local by the name of Michael Fujiwara captured the incident on his phone’s camera. He had begun filming a few moments before, when the sea lion emerged from the water and—likely in search of treats—approached the dock. Onlookers gathered, including the girl and her family.
“Her family started feeding the animal, and the sea lion started to become comfortable,” Fujiwara explained to CNN.
Sea lions are by nature gregarious, so it makes sense that this one quickly became so confident among strange humans. And Fujiwara’s video depicts at least one person pretending to hold food over the animal’s snout. Others whistled to the sea lion and laughed, pleased by its sociability.
The little girl situated herself on the edge of the dock and, soon after, the sea lion jumped out of the water, very near to her face. From the video, this seems like a playful move on the part of the sea lion, but it’s worth noting that the creature is a physically powerful one. Males can weigh as much as 600 pounds; females are 220 pounds on average. So while this might have been an ideal time to back away, the girl was understandably charmed. She giggled and maintained her spot.
A moment later, the sea lion lunged a second time, grabbed the girl by the seat of her dress, and pulled her into the water. A man—likely one of the girl’s relatives, according to Fujiwara—immediately followed in pursuit, and observers helped the pair climb back onto the dock.
“After being pulled back onto the dock, the family quickly walked away from the area without saying much,” Fujiwara told CNN. “They were probably very shaken up and just wanted to get away from the sea lion as fast as possible.”
Tossing the little girl into the water may have been another frolicsome gesture, but it was a much more aggressive one that could have resulted in disaster. Fortunately, Bob Baziuk, general manager of the Steveston Harbour Authority, reported to CNN that neither the child nor her presumed relative were injured. He is, however, still trying to gather more information about the accident.
Because California sea lions pass Steveston Harbour on their migration route, males often pop by with the hope that tourists will provide easy meals. However, Baziuk emphasizes that people should never feed them, no matter how delightful they seem.
“It’s not Sea World where you buy fish,” Baziuk remarks to CNN. “If you feed the animals like this you’re asking for trouble.”
You can watch Fujiwara’s video—it’s posted below—with the comfort of knowing everyone is safe.