Scary moment girl dragged into water by sea lion

The slightly terrifying moment a sea lion emerged from the water and dragged a little girl off a pier in Canada has been caught on camera.

A crowd of people were looking at the animal, described by one as 'huge', at the Steveston Fisherman's Wharf in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, reports the Metro.

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The little girl comes into shot and seems amused when the sea lion rises up to say a quick hello.

She then sits on the barrier on the pier to get a little closer, but before she knows it the sea lion has launched at her and managed to clamp its jaws on her dress, pulling her right off the pier and into the water.

A man, presumably a relative, jumps straight into the water after her and rescues her immediately.

The footage was uploaded to YouTube by Michael Fujiwara, who said nobody was hurt in the incident.

Andrew Trites, the director of UBC's Marine Mammal Research Unit, says the animal is not to blame for the incident, and that sea lions are not inherently dangerous. However, they are wild animals and the public should keep their distance.

Speaking to CBC News, he said: "My first reaction to the video is just how stupid some people can be to not treat wildlife with proper respect.

"This was a male California sea lion. They are huge animals. They are not circus performers. They're not trained to be next to people."

He added: "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. But it wasn't food of course.

"You keep your distance. Watch the animals, but let wildlife be wildlife."