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A Florida man wasn’t going to let an alligator take his 3-month-old puppy.
According to Richard Wilbanks, 74, of Estero, he and his dog, Gunner, were enjoying a walk around his pond when the gator appeared out of nowhere.
“We were just out walking by the pond,” Wilbanks told CNN. “It came out of the water like a missile. I never thought an alligator could be that fast. It was so quick.”
He told the outlet that instinct took hold. “I just automatically jumped into the water” to save his dog, said Wilbanks, who added that wrestling the small alligator wasn’t a problem, but trying to pry open his jaws to release Gunner was “extremely hard.”
After the encounter, Wilbanks said his hands were “chewed up” and that his doctor gave him a tetanus shot just to be safe. Meanwhile, his puppy made it out with one puncture wound in his belly and is healing well after a trip to the veterinarian’s office.
Wilbanks’ encounter with the alligator was caught on camera thanks to a partnership between the Florida Wildlife Federation and the fSTOP Foundation, which is part of a campaign called “Sharing the Landscape.” The campaign aims to help the community understand the wildlife they live with to help reduce the conflicts.
“We live on a shared landscape,” Meredith Budd of the wildlife federation told WINK. “We don’t just want to tolerate wildlife, but, rather, we want to thrive with wildlife on a shared landscape.”
Wilbanks and his wife, Louise, both agree with the campaign’s mission.
“It gives us a new appreciation,” Louise told WINK. “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.”