A drone cruising over the warm waters of Miami's South Beach this week has captured the kind of shark sighting that plays out much more often than sensationalist media headlines would have you believe: a large tiger shark meandering along the coastline, casually bypassing several bathers. 

A post shared by Kenny Melendez (@aerodronemedia) on Nov 26, 2017 at 12:25pm PST

While some media outlets have focused on the potentially dangerous nature of such a close encounter, the footage provides a great example of a shark – one often painted as an indiscriminate aggressor – behaving passively in the presence of humans.  

Drone photographer Kenny Melendez noted that the animal, which was likely foraging for rays or tasty invertebrates in the shallows, seemed unperturbed by its fellow swimmers. 

"It seemed very uninterested in the people in the water," Melendez told GrindTV. "I was shocked to see how close the shark got to the man, and it didn't seem to care at all that the swimmer was in its path." The animal, he added, moved off "lazily" without any trouble. 

It's not clear whether the bathers were aware of their finned company, but if they did see the predator, they appeared to handle the situation very well. As we've discussed before, the best thing to do if you find yourself in the water with a large shark is to stay calm, keep your eyes on the animal and move away slowly. A shark is far more likely to move in and investigate if it senses splashing or erratic movement. (You can also prepare yourself for a surprise encounter by learning about shark warning signs.)

As for reports that the shark may have been sick or injured, there's nothing in Melendez's video to suggest this was the case. Shallow-water patrolling is actually quite normal behaviour for tiger sharks in the area. While the animals can also be found far offshore, these unfussy eaters will move through various habitats in search of food. Shallow waters are rich in easy prey like conch and other invertebrates, while migrating baitfish make such areas particularly promising foraging grounds at this time of year. 

Floridians will likely see more sharks in these parts in the coming months: as winter arrives in the Northern Hemisphere, migratory predators like blacktips come to utilise these warm, rich waters as a stopover. But that's no reason to panic. Miami Beach Ocean Rescue chief, Vince Canosa, who has been working the area for 35 years, says he's yet to witness a problematic shark encounter. 

"They don't hang around too long,"  he told the Miami Herald"It's their home and we are in it."

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