In a widely-shared video shot near a dock in British Columbia, Canada and published on Saturday, a sea lion can be seen leaping out of the water and pulling a small girl into the harbour by her dress.
She was on the pier with several other people, many of whom can be seen throwing food into the water for the enormous animal, who drew closer as some reached toward the water with food and crumbs.
At one point, the large mammal can be seen propelling itself out of the water, potentially looking for more food. The girl sits down on the edge of the dock and with the next leap, the animal pulls her in. The sea lion then disappears and her grandfather jumps in to pull the girl out of the water.
Growing up to more than 7 feet, this sea lion, most likely a California sea lion native to the British Columbia area, can weigh up to 860 pounds. This particularly large specimen generally prefers small food and subsists on a diet of fish, squid and shellfish. Stellers Sea Lions, which can get even larger, also populate the area.
The sea lion was not jumping onto the dock with the intention of eating the child, but in search of more of the food, the people lining the dock were throwing.
MORE CURIOUS THAN VIOLENT
Sea lions are also known to be curious and have circled and investigated divers who stray into their breeding territory.
In an unrelated incident near the dock where the sea lion dragged the girl into the water, a group of curious sea lions surrounded a diver, biting his mask and even swimming through his legs, but not harming him.
They are not known to be violent, though, and are generally more curious about humans than aggressive toward them.
But while this sea lion may not have meant harm, the girl could have been seriously injured. Feeding wild animals comes with significant risks–and can have a long-term impact on the animals.
Director of Florida Program for Shark Research George Burgess said in an interview that feeding animals can have a long-term impact on their behaviour, teaching them to “equate humans with free food.”