By now you've probably seen this viral video posted by an SFU student named Michael Fujiwara on Twitter, of a man jumping into the water to save a little girl after a sea lion jumped up, grabbed her dress with its mouth, and dragged her off the dock and into the water at Steveston Fisherman's Wharf near Vancouver, B.C.
Scary stuff! One minute the child is happily playing around with the sea lion while her family feeds it bread crumbs. The next, she's being pulled underwater without warning. And while neither the girl nor the man who rescued her were injured, this video is an important reminder that we all need to give wild animals their space.
Fujiwara told CBC News that he goes to the dock regularly and has never seen anything like what he captured on film. But Andrew Tites, director of the University of British Columbia's Marine Mammal Research Unit, openly criticized the family for feeding and getting close to the California sea lion in the first place.
"They are not circus performers," he said. "They're not trained to be next to people."
While sea lions are not inherently dangerous or looking to grab people, Tites said it's likely that this particular sea lion thought the girl's dress was food, since her family had been feeding him just prior to the incident. His hope now is that the video of the terrifying encounter will teach others to stop feeding wild animals.
"You keep your distance," he explained. "Watch the animals, but let wildlife be wildlife."