PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Tens of thousands of alligators roam the Sunshine State, stretching up to 14 feet long and weighing as much as 700 pounds.
Local researcher James Nifong strapped cameras on the backs of some alligators in Guana River State Park and on the space coast, providing new information about one of the state's deadliest predators.
“We didn't know what alligators do when we're not around, when we're not there to observe them,” said Nifong, a Ph.D. biology student at the University of Florida.
Nifong partnered with National Geographic
and captured the first-ever video from an alligator's point of view.
“At night it's a really different place,” said Nifong, of the 10-mile stretch of Guana River in St. Johns County where he studied the predators for more than three years. “You shine a light around and it's just alligator eyes everywhere.”
Nifong and National Geographic used 15 CritterCams to capture the activities of alligators at night and underwater. The team captured more than 70 hours of video before the cameras detached automatically. Nifong estimates there are nearly 1,000 alligators in the river.
“They spend about 80 percent of their time doing nothing.”
Nifong now knows why. In the early morning hours, the Guana alligators consume mass amounts of small crab and fish. The video reveals their hunting techniques through a system of trails built with tools.
“In fact, we were never able to see the prey item because they're so small the alligators head actually covered it up.”
While alligators can drift beyond the protection of the Guana River, Nifong says it’s a risk.
“If anybody calls and complains about that alligator, it's pretty much a death warrant.”
Nifong hopes the video will prove the alligators are just trying to survive.
“They're not as dangerous as people think. Give them a safe distance and maybe they'll be here for the future.”