If you haven’t seen the video of a sea lion dragging a young girl into the water by the back of her dress, it’s pretty startling. Filmed at Steveston Harbour in British Columbia, the incident occurred after visitors tossed food into the water for the sea lions. Videos like this are a crucial reminder that nature deserves our respect—and no matter how cute an animal is, it’s still wild.
In the viral video, filmed by Michael Fujiwara in British Columbia, Canada, the sea lion initially bobs around by the dock as people seem to throw food into the water (off camera). The sea lion first snaps at the young girl in question, possibly in search of food. Then, it grabbed the back of her dress as she sat down on the wooden railing close to the water.
The sea lion dragged the girl into the water and the observers sprang into action. An unidentified man immediately dove into the wharf to rescue her and they both escaped from the water swiftly. The sea lion appeared to let go of the dress immediately upon realizing it was not a source of food. The girl appeared to be unhurt; she and her family left right away.
It’s crucial to note that while sea lions are not naturally dangerous—it’s likely the sea lion in question thought the girl’s dress was food—they are huge. An adult California sea lion like the one in the video can weigh up to (and sometimes over) 800 pounds. In a fight against one of these massive creatures, a human will lose every time.
Robert Kiesman, the Steveston’s harbor authority, said this video needs to be a stern warning to visitors that they should never feed or attempt to interact with sea lions.
“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 animal in the water slices of bread,” Kiesman told CBC News in an interview. “And you certainly shouldn’t be letting your little girl sit on the edge of the dock with her dress hanging down after the sea lion has already snapped at her once. Just totally reckless behavior.”
The Steveston Harbor Authority also posted a statement (albeit with more gentle wording) on its website reminding visitors to respect the sea lions.
“While we appreciate that seeing wildlife can be exciting, we stress that feeding wildlife is both illegal and dangerous!” the statement said. “Also, keep in mind that feeding wildlife can also be extremely detrimental to the animals themselves, as they may learn to associate humans with an easy source of food, which can lead to them not being able to successfully secure food in the wild.”
So, lesson learned: Don’t feed bears ham sandwiches, and don’t feed any other wild animals either.