Wildlife | Animals

California Sea Lion Drags Girl Off a Dock And Into The Water

A sunny Saturday afternoon turned dark when a family was visiting a dock on the West Coast.

The family began feeding a large, male sea lion breadcrumbs as it approached the dock at the Fisherman's Wharf.

An onlooker captured this video as a crowd gathered around the animal.

"Everyone just thought it was super friendly and all, but seconds later the girl decided to sit on the side of the dock and that's when the sea lion decided to jump out and drag her into the water," Michael Fujiwara said.

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SFU student Michael Fujiwara captured the video of the animal approaching the family and then jumping out of the water grabbing the girl by the dress and dragging her into the water.

Continue to see the full video and find out how she is.

"And it initially jumped up to the girl to read her I guess," he said. "And then it came back up a second time, but this time grabbing the girl by the waist and dragging her down into the water."

Fujiwara said he didn't know if the man who jumped into the water to rescue the girl was a relative or stranger.

No one appeared to be hurt after the incident, but quickly left after getting out of the water.

"They were pretty shaken up," he said. "Her family were just in shock."

After visiting the wharf weekly, Fujiwawa says he has never seen anything like this before, in spite of regularly seeing the animals at the docks.

Don't Feed the Wildlife

Andrew Trites, the director of UBC's Marine Mammal Research Unit, does not blame the animal for it's behavior in the video.

"My first reaction to the video is just how stupid some people can be to not treat wildlife with proper respect," he said. "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 says that it looks like this sea lion is used to having people feed it, in spite of Marine Mammal Regulations prohibiting people from disturbing the wildlife.

"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."

New Signs

The harbor authority has posted more signs along the dock, in addition to staff regularly patrolling the area throughout the day.

The signs say the maximum penalty for "disturbing" a marine mammal is $100,000.

"You wouldn't go up to a grizzly bear in the bush and hand him a ham sandwich, so you shouldn't be handing a thousand-pound wild mammal in the water slices of bread," Robert Kiesman, chair of the Stevenston Harbor Authority said.

The warnings also include that sea lions bites can cause serious infections and can lead to amputation of a limb or even death.

Trite hopes the video teaches people not to feed wild animals like sea lions.

"You keep your distance. Watch the animals, but let wildlife be wildlife."