It was a terrifying moment caught on video. A sea lion bobs that head in the water if a girl sit gingerly ~ above the dock above. The following instant, the sea lion launches out of the water and also pulls the girl in, however the animal releases she a couple of seconds later. A bystander captured the whole episode top top a video that"s been viewed more than 13 million times due to the fact that it was posted come YouTube Saturday (May 20). But what do the sea lion take the girl, only to relax her an prompt later?

It"s difficult to understand the animal"s intentions, however the sea lion most likely thought the girl"s white dress was a piece of food, sea lion professionals told Live Science. However, the marine mammal most likely wasn"t expecting the girl to autumn on height of it, and also likely let walk of she in surprise, lock said.

You are watching: Girl pulled into water by sea lion

"My assumption: v is that not just was the girl in shock; most likely the sea lion was, too, by having actually something so huge land on height of him," claimed Andrew Trites, director of the maritime Mammal research study Unit at the university of british Columbia, in Vancouver.

In the video, civilization watch and also playfully call to the wild sea lion as it philosophies a dock in ~ Steveston Fisherman"s wharf in Richmond, british Columbia. Several of the civilization hold your hands close come the sea lion, pretending as though they have treats to feeding it, even though castle don"t.

Meanwhile, a young girl kneels through the water to gain a much better look at the sea lion, and yells in surprise once it emerges halfway the end of the water, most likely to see if she has actually food. Then, the girl sit on the leaf of the dock, and within a break-up second, the sea lion bites she dress and also pulls her into the water.

Luckily, an adult jumped in to assist the young girl, who was soaking wet but showed up physically unscathed, earlier onto the dock.

"I don"t think it was a authorize of an pet being wild or trying to injury the child," Trites called Live Science. "The pet was expecting food. They to be basically no taunting, yet probably unintentionally teasing the animal by not giving him any type of food."

He detailed that the very first time the sea lion lunged at the girl, she moved away from the water. This move could have prompted the sea lion"s predator response when it apparently mistook her dress for a tasty morsel, Trites said.

"When other flees, friend go quicker to seize it," he said. "You watch that happening through cougars, with bears — you know, friend earlier away slowly from bears."

The sea lion is most likely a male California sea lion (Zalophus californianus), Trites said. Masculine Z. californianus can weigh as much as 800 lbs. (360 kilograms) and also measure an mean of 7 feet (2.1 meters) long, follow to Sea Lion World.

Some masculine Z. californianus take trip north to Canada throughout the winter and also spring therefore they can build up blubber by gobbling down fish and also squid. The way, "when they go back to California, they"re big and attractive come the females that are on the breeding beaches, and can defend territories nearly like sumo wrestlers," Trites said.

He advised civilization to provide sea lions and also other wild animals a broad berth, and not to feed them. Back Z. californianus is well-known, regularly for law tricks in zoos, wild-animal behavior can it is in unpredictable, Trites said.

"Those people and also the child were just way too close to the animal," he said. "I to be so surprised that parents would placed their child right into that situation. Friend wouldn"t allow your child feed a bear, so why would certainly you it is in encouraging it to feeding a sea lion?"

Many sea lions room acclimated to being about people, particularly fishers who could throw castle a fish or inadvertently provide them a fishy meal once dumping leftover fish heads and guts right into the water, stated Pat Thomas, basic curator at the Bronx Zoo in new York City.

"Sea lions space wild animals," thomas said. "Admire them native a distance. They room amazingly beautiful, agile pets in the water, however you must never be so close that you"re placing yourself at part risk because you"re not going come know how it"s going come respond to your presence."

Update on may 25: The girl is receiving antibiotic therapy as a precaution for "seal finger," a bacter infectionthat have the right to be transmitted from seals and also sea lions come humans.

Original article on Live Science.

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Laura is one editor in ~ Live Science. She edits Life"s tiny Mysteries and also reports on basic science, consisting of archaeology and animals. Her work-related has appeared in The brand-new York Times, Scholastic, well-known Science and Spectrum, a website on autism research. She has actually won lot of awards from the society of skilled Journalists and also the Washington Newspaper Publishers combination for her reporting in ~ a weekly newspaper near Seattle. Laura stop a bachelor"s degree in English literature and psychology native Washington university in St. Louis and an advanced certificate in scientific research writing native NYU.