One common sentiment has emerged in the wake of a startling video that shows a sea lion dragging a young girl into a harbor: Glad the kid's OK, but don't blame the sea lion. Instead, animal behaviorists who have watched what happened at a wharf in British Columbia say the girl's family put her at risk with their "reckless" actions, reports the CBC. "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," says Robert Kiesman of the Steveston Harbour Authority. He notes that just moments before grabbing the girl, the sea lion had popped up out of the water looking agitated, and yet nobody stopped the girl from sitting on the edge of the dock. "Totally reckless," says Kiesman.
The family may not have been aware of it, but the sea lion had given what a trainer at the Vancouver Aquarium calls "an aggressive precursor," per the Vancouver Sun. “You saw him kind of initially lunge out of the water and give a little huff," says Danielle Hyson. He seemed irked because the scraps had stopped coming, and people should have immediately backed off. An unidentified man believed to be a family member jumped in and rescued the girl, but animal experts say she needs to get to the hospital quickly if the animal broke the skin even slightly. She would need specific antibiotics thanks to "some pretty nasty bacteria" in the sea lion's mouth, says Hyson. Meanwhile, harbor officials are posting more signs and adding patrols to warn people that it's illegal to feed marine mammals. (Read more sea lions stories.)