Don’t even think about messing with this Florida man’s puppy.
Richard Wilbanks, 74, acted swiftly when his 3-month-old pup Gunner was snatched by an alligator in the backyard pond of his home in Estero, near South Florida’s Gulf Coast.
In a stunning video, Wilbanks wrestles the young gator in waist-deep water, bringing it above the surface and prying open its jaws to release the King Charles Cavalier spaniel.
“We were just out walking by the pond,” Wilbanks told CNN, “and it came out of the water like a missile. I never thought an alligator could be that fast. It was so quick.”
Acting on adrenaline or instinct, Wilbanks said he just “automatically jumped into the water.”
He said he sustained some injuries to his hands and went to the doctor for a tetanus shot to be safe.
Gunner had one small puncture wound to his belly, but is doing fine after a trip to the vet, Wilbanks said.
Wilbanks told WINK News that he understands this is the alligator’s home and does not want it removed from the pond. He urged other pet owners to keep their animals away from the water’s edge.
The dramatic encounter was caught on camera thanks to a partnership between the Florida Wildlife Federation and the fSTOP Foundation as part of a campaign called “Sharing the Landscape.” Its mission is to help the community understand and appreciate the wildlife they live near and help reduce conflicts.
Meredith Budd, the regional policy director of the Florida Wildlife Federation, said the cameras typically capture videos of deer or bobcats. It’s not often they catch something like what Wilbanks and Gunner went through.
“We live on a shared landscape,” Budd said. “We don’t just want to tolerate wildlife, but, rather, we want to thrive with wildlife on a shared landscape.”
Louise Wilbanks, Richard’s wife, told WINK the incident has given them a new appreciation for the wildlife near their homes.
“We do need to be aware they are wild animals. They’re not here for our benefit. We’re very lucky to share this space with them,” she said.