VANCOUVER • A video that shows a sea lion grabbing a young girl's dress and dragging her into the water has gone viral.
The incident was posted on Facebook on Saturday by Mr Michael Fujiwara, and was shot at a dock at Steveston, a seaside community south of Vancouver on Canada's western coast.
It begins with the sound of cameras clicking and onlookers marvelling at the size of a California sea lion that people are feeding. But the sea lion swims closer to the dock and rises in the water, towards a little girl kneeling on the dock edge.
The girl and others laugh, but the sea lion jumps again - this time getting a grip on her white dress and pulling her into the water.
As onlookers scream, a man immediately gets into the water to save the girl. Neither the girl nor her rescuer were injured, and she left immediately afterwards.
"They were pretty shaken up," Mr Fujiwara told CBC News. "Her family was just in shock."
Mr Andrew Tites, director of the University of British Columbia's Marine Mammal Research Unit, said it was likely that the sea lion thought the girl's dress was food.
"My first reaction to the video is just how stupid some people can be to not treat wildlife with proper respect," he told CBC News, adding later: "They are not circus performers. They're not trained to be next to people."
An adult California sea lion is about the same size as a 1.8m-tall man and weighs about 275kg to 390kg. In the wild, they are sleek and faster than any other sea lion, according to National Geographic.