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Officials say family of girl grabbed by sea lion was "reckless"

CBS News logo CBS News 23/05/2017
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Video provided by CBC News

Officials have criticized the family of a young girl after a viral video showed a sea lion pulling her into the water from a dock in Richmond, British Columbia.

Robert Kiesman, chair of the Steveston Harbour Authority, told Canada's CBC News that there are several signs warning tourists not to feed wild sea mammals. 

"You wouldn't go up to a grizzly bear in the bush and hand him a ham sandwich, so you shouldn't be handing a thousand-pound wild mammal in the water slices of bread," Kiesman said.

He went on to say that the family displayed "totally reckless behavior" by allowing the young girl to sit on the ledge of the dock following the first time the sea lion snapped at her.

Peter Wallerstein, director of the Marine Animal Rescue project in Los Angeles County, told CBS Los Angeles that sea lions are simply unpredictable.

"That was a big sea lion that grabbed that girl into the water. They're unpredictable and have a wild streak." said Wallerstein, who rescues mostly distressed sea lions.

Michael Fujiwara, a university student in Richmond who filmed the incident, said a family was feeding the animal bread crumbs before it pulled the young girl underwater. 

"They were pretty shaken up," Fujiwara told CBC News. "Her family were just in shock."

Bruce Okabe, CEO of Tourism Richmond, said in a statement to CBS News on Sunday that the incident was an "isolated occurrence."

"Interactions with wild animals should always be approached with caution. We hope she wasn't injured," Okabe said.

Danielle Hyson, a trainer at the Vancouver Aquarium, told The Vancouver Sun that the sea lion had displayed warning signs just moments before the incident.

"You saw him kind of initially lunge out of the water and give a little huff," Hyson said. "That's what we would call an aggressive precursor. 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."


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