Why did the sea lion pull a little girl off the dock? Experts weigh in

After the video of the sea lion pulling a little girl off a dock and into the water went viral over the weekend, dozens of tourists flocked to the scene at Steveston in Richmond, British Columbia, in hopes of seeing the offending animal.

As people continued to ignore warnings to stay away from the sea lion, experts were left shaking their heads in disbelief.

“Unbelievably, last night there were about 100 people down there, mostly tourists, maybe some of them locals, picking up their kids and holding them over the water looking for the infamous sea lion,” Bob Baziuk, general manager of Steveston Harbour Authority, told CBC News.

Danielle Hyson, a senior marine mammal trainer at the Vancouver Aquarium, spoke with CBC's "The Early Edition" on Tuesday and gave insight into the actions of the sea lion,  explaining that “an animal that has been fed over time will be habituated to people and you can absolutely see the potential for instances like this."

In the interview, Hyson offered her theory as to why the sea lion pulled the little girl off the dock:

"In my opinion, the sea lion became frustrated because the feeding stopped. This animal is used to being in this area and being fed. You can see at the beginning of the video, people are feeding it and the animal starts to become a little bit agitated and frustrated and hoping to elicit more food.

"Initially you can see the animal jump up at the little girl. That’s what we would call a warning sign or an aggressive precursor, much the same way a dog would growl or show its teeth. That’s the beginning steps before a full-blown aggression incident.

"Instead of getting closer, the people should have removed themselves and given this animal plenty of space."

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Andrew Trites of the UBC's Marine Mammal Research Unit told CBC News he thought the sea lion mistook the little girl for food.

"The little girl has her back to the sea lion and it would appear that the sea lion sees part of her dress, thinks it’s food, reaches up, grabs at the food and pulls her in by the dress," he said.

The incident served as yet another reminder about not feeding wildlife.

"People need to stop feeding wildlife no matter what," Hyson told "The Early Edition." "It doesn’t matter if it's raccoons or geese in your local park, bears unintentionally with your garbage, or any marine mammal. Just stop feeding wildlife. Give them space, give them respect, and just appreciate them from a distance."