Richard Wilbanks, 74, of Estero ran into his backyard pond, fought the gator above the surface and pried his jaws open to free Gunner, his Cavalier King Charles 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 so fast. It was so fast.”
He said adrenaline or instinct kicked in, and “I automatically jumped into the water.”
Holding the alligator was not that hard, but it was “extremely hard to jaw the jaws open,”
Wilbanks said his hands were “chewed up,” and he went to a doctor to get a tetanus shot.
Gunner had a punctured wound in his stomach and was doing fine after a trip to the vet.
The rescue south of Fort Myers was captured on camera due to a partnership between the Florida Wildlife Federation and the fSTOP Foundation.
“We live in a common landscape,” Meredith Budd of the Wildlife Association told subsidiary WINK. “We will not just tolerate wildlife, but rather we will thrive on wildlife in a common landscape.”
Wilbanks agrees with this mission and he does not want the alligator to be removed from the pond or destroyed.
“They are part of nature and part of our lives,” he said.
He still takes Gunner on foot, but he keeps the puppy on a leash – and 10 meters from the edge of the pond. “Our pets, they are like family to us,” he said.