Florida shark caught eating another shark in shallow beach waters
It's a shark eat shark world. We're just living in it.
Juno Beach paddleboarder and professional photographer Jack Bates frequently sees all forms of sea life during his outings and usually brings a couple of GoPro cameras.
He learned a long time ago, you just never know what you will see.
On a Tuesday afternoon outing at his favorite beach, he saw something in about 4 feet of water that he'll never forget.
"It was pretty incredible," Bates told TCPalm. "I'm glad I had my camera."
Only a few yards from Juno Beach, a public Palm Beach County beach access, Bates saw a large tiger shark feeding on the carcass of a large dead hammerhead shark.
No one can be sure how the hammerhead died, and the tiger was simply doing its job — scavenging on something that was no longer swimming.
Tiger sharks are among the largest coastal sharks, sometimes reaching lengths of 18 feet, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History. They are known to eat most marine animals, sea turtles, sea birds, the occasional terrestrial animal and even garbage encountered floating at sea.
They appear to be slow-moving, but are capable of bursts of speed to catch prey.
As for the hammerhead, they can grow to lengths of 18-20 feet. They typically eat bony fishes, stingrays, tarpon, other sharks and other rays.
Both species range close to shore to find their prey, which makes them susceptible to shore-based shark anglers. Both species are prohibited from harvest in Florida, along with 24 other species of sharks and rays, including sawfish, great whites and whale sharks.
However, sometimes when anglers battle these two large sharks for long periods of time, it exhausts the shark as lactic acid builds up in its muscle tissue, and they can sometimes die, even after being released seemingly fine.
As a result, in 2019, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission enacted new regulations for shore-based shark fishing requiring the completion of an online course to obtain a no cost permit to fish for them.
As for Bates, who is no stranger to sharks, he returned the next day to see if the shark was still feeding on the hammerhead, but the tide overnight must have carried the carcass to deeper water.
Bates did find a smaller tiger shark swimming freely along the beach, about 50 yards offshore.
"Sorry to see the death of this hammerhead but witnessing this tigers power and beauty chow down blew my mind," Bates wrote on IG. "Interesting fact: 30 yards down the beach there was a guy swimming with his dogs who had no clue this was happening."
By the way anglers, note the cobia swimming with the tiger. Has to be 30 pounds.
This story originally published to tcpalm.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.