Florida man wrests alligator in dramatic video
A Florida man wrestled an alligator, rescued his new puppy, and was unable to drop his cigar in a terrifying rescue caught on surveillance video.
The incident occurred late October around a backyard pond in Estero, Fla., local WBBH station records.
Richard Wilbanks, 74, was in his yard with his three-month-old puppy Gunner when a gator lunged out of the pond and caught the spaniel.
"The water came like a missile," Wilbanks told CNN. "I never thought an alligator could be fast."
The seasoned hunter sprang into action, wading into the pond, grabbing in his hands the approximately one-meter-long gator.
"Instinct took over and adrenaline kicked in and after the gator and Gunner I just went into the water," he told WBBH.
Surveillance video shows Wilbanks raising the gator out of water as the reptile holds in its mouth the dog's belly. Wilbanks — chomping on his cigar — wade to the sea, prying the alligator's mouth open, releasing the puppy.
Gunner can be seen free wriggling and running safely.
Wilbanks said picking up the little gator wasn't hard, but it was "extremely hard to open its jaws.
Richard's wife, Louise, says she was surprised to see the pair after the incident.
"He had the dog and blood covered," she told NBC News.
After the incident, Wilbanks said his hands were "chewed up," so he went to the doctor for a tetanus shot. Gunner was treated for a puncture wound to the vet.
Surveillance cameras recorded footage as part of a Florida Wildlife Foundation and fStop Foundation initiative. Groups use cameras to track animal activity around homes surrounding wild areas, seeking to better understand how to coexist with nature.
"We live in a shared landscape," said Meredith Budd of the Florida Wildlife Foundation. "We don't want to tolerate wildlife, we want to thrive on a shared landscape with wildlife."
After testing a camera on his house, the two foundations discovered Wilbanks' epic wrestling match.
Wilbanks says he knows he's close to the home of the alligator, and he doesn't want it killed because of the attack.
"They're part of nature, part of life," he said.
He added he built a healthy appreciation for his backyard pond—and a renewed devotion to leash.