Video shows sea lion drag­ging girl into wa­ter in B.C.

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - GEMMA KARSTENS-SMITH

VANCOUVER — The man who shot heart-stop­ping video of a sea lion snatch­ing a lit­tle girl off a Vancouver-area wharf says at first he froze.

“I was just in shock. I didn’t know what to do at first,” Michael Fu­ji­wara said a day af­ter he shot the video on Satur­day that shows the sea lion lunge up, grab the lit­tle girl’s white dress and pull her down into the wa­ter at the Steve­ston Wharf in Rich­mond, B.C.

The ter­ri­fy­ing video that Fu­ji­wara posted on­line shows a man im­me­di­ately leap­ing into the wa­ter, scoop­ing up the child and haul­ing her to safety.

Fu­ji­wara, 23, said he be­lieves the man is the girl’s grand­fa­ther, and Fu­ji­wara grabbed both of their hands to help pull them back up to the dock.

“I was just pan­ick­ing, ac­tu­ally. I’ve never seen any­thing like that be­fore. I just didn’t know how to re­act,” said Fu­ji­wara who was hav­ing cof­fee at the wharf when he de­cided to pull his phone out to take some video of the sea lion swim­ming by the wharf mo­ments be­fore it snatched the girl.

“Ev­ery­one just thought it was su­per friendly and all, but sec­onds later the girl de­cided to sit on the side of the dock and that’s when the sea lion de­cided to jump out and drag her into the wa­ter,” Fu­ji­wara said.

The fam­ily was vis­i­bly shaken by the in­ci­dent, Fu­ji­wara added, and im­me­di­ately left the area.

Fu­ji­wara posted the video on­line Satur­day, and by Sun­day af­ter­noon the video had been viewed more than 2.6 mil­lion times on YouTube, and shared more than 700 times on Twit­ter.

Bob Baz­iuk, gen­eral man­ager of the Steve­ston Har­bour Author­ity, said watch­ing the video made his stom­ach turn.

“It’s an un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent, first and fore­most. I hope the lit­tle girl’s OK,” he said. “But we’ve been try­ing to get that mes­sage out for years and years — don’t feed the an­i­mals. You’re just ask­ing for trou­ble when you do that.”

Cal­i­for­nia sea li­ons of­ten visit the area on their mi­gra­tory cy­cle, hop­ing for hand­outs from fish­er­man, but signs are posted warn­ing peo­ple not to feed any of the an­i­mals.

“It’s kind of stag­ger­ing and it’s a re­ally un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent. But it hap­pened and now that video is the poster child for why you don’t (feed the sea li­ons),” Baz­iuk said.

Danielle Hyson, a se­nior marine mam­mal trainer at the Vancouver Aquar­ium, said there has been an uptick in peo­ple feed­ing wildlife around the Vancouver area, from bears to birds. That be­hav­iour leads to an in­creased num­ber of dan­ger­ous close en­coun­ters.

“The more and more we feed wild an­i­mals, the more and more we’re putting our selves at risk for those sit­u­a­tions,” she said.

Hyson said Fu­ji­wara’s video ap­pears to show the sea lion get­ting in­creas­ingly frus­trated as the feed­ing stops.

“You saw him kind of ini­tially lunge out of the wa­ter and give a lit­tle huff. That’s what we would call an ag­gres­sive pre­cur­sor,” she said. “So he’s let­ting the peo­ple know that he’s start­ing to get frus­trated. And in that sit­u­a­tion, the peo­ple should have backed off right away.”

Frus­tra­tion can lead to ag­gres­sion, Hyson added, not­ing that male Cal­i­for­nia sea li­ons are pow­er­ful an­i­mals that can weigh more than 200 kilo­grams.

The trainer said she’s also con­cerned about the lit­tle girl’s health af­ter watch­ing the video. If the child suf­fered any sort of punc­ture or bro­ken skin, she could be at risk of an in­fec­tion that doc­tors could find dif­fi­cult to treat.

“Seals and sea li­ons can carry some pretty nasty bac­te­ria in their mouth,” Hyson said.

The Vancouver Aquar­ium is en­cour­ag­ing the fam­ily to get in touch with them for more in­for­ma­tion on how to han­dle a pos­si­ble in­fec­tion.

MICHAEL FU­JI­WARA, YOUTUBE

A video, posted by Vancouver res­i­dent Michael Fu­ji­wara, shows this sea lion sud­denly pull a lit­tle girl into the wa­ter. Luck­ily she was quickly res­cued.

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