ESTERO, Fla. — A Florida man is seen on video pulling an alligator’s jaws apart to rescue his beloved pet dog from the reptile’s vise-like grip.
Richard Wilbanks did not think twice before jumping into the pond to save Gunner.
“They’re like children to us,” Wilbanks told WINK.
Video shows Wilbanks in knee deep water wrestling with the wild animal. Gunner is eventually freed and runs off. Wilbanks then releases the alligator. A cigar appears to cling to Wilbank’s mouth throughout the entire ordeal.
“He had one little puncture wound, and … my hands were just chewed up,” Wilbanks said. “Fortunately, I was in a position that I was able to save Gunner’s life.”
Wilbanks’ encounter was caught on camera through pure coincidence. A partnership between the Florida Wildlife Federation and the fSTOP Foundation had a camera set up near the pond for its “Sharing the Landscape” campaign. The cameras typically record bobcats or deer.
“We don’t just want to tolerate wildlife, but, rather, we want to thrive with wildlife on a shared landscape,” Meredith Budd, regional policy director of the Florida Wildlife Federation, told WINK.
Wilbanks said the alligator was just doing what it’s supposed to so he did not call the Florida Wildlife and Conservation Commission. He said it was a learning experience for himself and Gunner, who is now always on a leash.
“I would like to emphasize for people that have pets is to make sure that they keep them away from the edge of the water,” Wilbanks said.