Alligators just want to have fun! Images taken in the Florida Everglades show predators at play

Alligators Florida Everglades — Courtesy: Shutterstock — Thierry Eidenweil

Remarkable images posted to social media channels over the past week feature alligators playing with a football and chasing a remote control boat around a lake, seeming to confirm a Tennessee university study that found that crocodilians like to have fun too.

An image posted to the Alligators of Florida Facebook page by Sandra Raymon Harrison showed a gator in the Big Cypress preserve with a football locked in between its jaws. How the reptile found the ball, and whether it had any additional playmates, was not specified.

Commentators who were concerned that the alligator had the ball lodged in its mouth were reassured by experts who say the massive force of the predator’s bite could pop the ball in an instant.

The second playful gator was caught swimming in hot pursuit of a remote-controlled toy boat in a short video posted to the website of Jacksonville’s ActionsNewsJax TV.

The pictures were snapped by a producer from the station who filmed a neighbor launching the vessel and noticed the alligator swimming along in its chase. The quick gator changes speed and direction many times as the boat zips right by it.

Both instances appear to support the research of University of Tennessee Knoxville animal behavior expert Vladimir Dinets, whose 2015 study, Play Behaviour in Crocodilians, noted such behavior as common.

“Social play by crocodilians is almost never reported but this doesn’t mean that it is particularly rare,” Dinets wrote, after spending more than 3,000 hours observing crocodilians in the wild and captivity.

He saw many alligators at play with river otters in Big Cypress and detailed the story of a loving crocodile that bonded with its rescuer in Costa Rica.

“Play behavior included swimming together, rushing at [him] with an open mouth in mock charges, sneaking on him from behind as if to startle him, and accepting being caressed, hugged, rotated in the water, and kissed on the snout,” he wrote.

The results “show[ed] a softer side of the intimidating creatures – one that includes romping around with river otters and people,” according to a Science Daily report.

However, a third recent incident of Florida alligators potentially at play had to be discounted. A video posted to Facebook showed an apparently friendly 20-foot alligator named Grandpappy leading a 6-foot reptile across a golf course in Lakeland. The video sadly ends with the smaller of the two reptiles being eaten.

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