Great Barrington couple catches dramatic scene of natural jaguar predation in Brazil

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GREAT BARRINGTON — The male jaguar glided through the brush on the bank of the Cuiaba River in the Brazilian jungle like a silent, spotted specter, its dark eyes trained on its prey with laser-like intensity.

The big cat moved through the brown grass silently for more then 25 minutes on that hot day in August 2013.

"At first," said freelance videographer/photographer Sally Eagle, "we weren't sure just what he was stalking. We couldn't see what he was looking at."

Then she and her husband, Dan Mead, realized what the prey was.

"We thought, 'Oh my God,' " Eagle said, 'He's going after that caiman.' "

The footage Eagle shot, which won her the Film & Video category in the Nature's Best Photography Awards for 2014, will go on display at the Berkshire Museum later this month.

The Great Barrington couple — Mead also is a freelance photographer — were on an excursion along with several guides seeking jaguars when the scene unfolded.

Eagle recalled that they were in a boat on the far side of the river when they spotted the jaguar, a few hundred feet away.

The caiman crocodile, about 5 1/2 feet long, was sunning itself lazily on a sandbar a few dozen yards down the river.

The jaguar, staying behind the caiman, slid into the water with nary a sound. It swam silently to the sandbar with only its eyes above water.

Then: Boom! The jaguar exploded out of the water, grabbed the caiman's neck in its teeth and snapped it, killing the croc instantly. Elapsed time: less than 6 seconds.

The jaguar then dragged its prey into the water, then re-emerged on an embankment and dragged the dead croc into the brush.

"That was about a week's dinner for that jaguar," Mead said.

"I was shooting the video, and Dan was side-by-side with me shooting the stills," she said.

The video, dubbed "Ambush in the Pantanal," will be on display all year at the Smithsonian Institution, which publishes the Nature's Best Photography magazine.

But one doesn't have to travel to Washington to see the video and other nature photos by Eagle and Mead.

The video and the photos will also be displayed at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield as part of its Art Zoo exhibit, which opens Jan. 23 and runs until May 1. The video will be displayed on a large screen in the museum's gallery.

"The photos and the video are spectacular," said Lesley Beck, the museum's director of communications. "We love having Sally and Dan exhibit their work. It's always of very high quality."

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.

On the Web ...

To view Eagle's award-winning video "Ambush in the Pantanal," go to https://vimeo.com/92363215.


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