An authority at Steveston Harbour, where a large sea lion lunged after a young girl and dragged her into the water in a now-viral video, is speaking out about the dangers of visitors feeding wild animals.
In the video captured by Michael Fujiwara in British Columbia, Canada, the animal can be seen initially bobbing around near a dock — and appeared to be tossed food by people off-camera — before a young girl gets excited by the sea lion’s presence, not knowing how dangerous the situation would become.
The little girl then turned her back to the water as she sat on a wooden ledge. Seconds later, the sea lion grabbed her and dragged her by her white dress off the wharf — and into the water — as horrified screams erupted. A man immediately jumped in to rescue her, and they both made swift exits from the water.
Robert Kiesman, Steveston’s harbor authority, said this should be a warning to never feed or approach sea lions.
“It’s total stupidity on the part of the adults,” Kiesman told Today on Monday morning. “Not only do you let your family members feed a wild animal, but then they went and let their little girl sit on the edge of the dock, with her back to it, with her dress hanging over it.”
He said feeding a sea lion is analogous to approaching a bear with food.
“Don’t go up to a bear in a forest and hand it a ham sandwich,” he added. “Don’t come to the dock and throw crackers at a sea lion. It’s common sense.”
Bob Beziuk, a general manager of the harbor, told PEOPLE that sea lions will engage with visitors if they are fed — but they’re still dangerous wild animals.
“If you throw things into the water to attract them, they’re not to be messed with,” Beziuk said on Sunday. He noted the harbor has signs posted warning visitors of feeding the animals.
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Beziuk added that he “first and foremost” hopes the girl is okay as he awaited updated information. (The little girl appeared to be unharmed but it had not yet been confirmed Sunday.)
“I am waiting for some updated information. It appeared from the video that she was pulled out, everybody was okay, but I certainly hope she is okay. That’s first and foremost,” he said.