Florida Man Saves Puppy from Alligator

April Saylor
·2 min read

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A dramatic rescue caught on a wildlife camera shows the moment a Florida man rushes into the water near his home to save his beloved dog from an alligator. Richard Wilbanks, 74, of Estero, Fla., can be seen prying the alligator's jaws off his 3-month-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel puppy, Gunner, who then rushes to safety once he's freed from the gator's grip.

"He just came out like a missile," Wilbanks said of the alligator's surprising speed.

Both the dog and his hero of a human are OK after the attack, with Wilbanks telling local news affiliate KHOU that the pup suffered minor injuries and was checked out at the veterinarian after the traumatic ordeal.

"He had one little puncture wound and I had, my hands were just chewed up," Wilbanks said.

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The ordeal was captured on video as part of a partnership between the Florida Wildlife Federation and the fStop Foundation, two organizations dedicated to conserving habitat for wildlife through education and awareness. The groups teamed up to place wildlife cameras across Southwest Florida—including the pond near Wilbanks' home—in order to capture images of animals as part of a campaign called ‘Share the Landscape.’

Meredith Budd, regional policy director for the Florida Wildlife Federation, told CNN that the cameras were placed in areas where residential homes intersect with wild spaces in order to teach residents about the wildlife habitats they live near—in part to help avoid the kinds of conflict that can arise when animals like alligators inhabit shared spaces with people and their pets. "We don't just want to tolerate wildlife, but, rather, we want to thrive with wildlife on a shared landscape," she says.

Even after his close encounter with the gator, Wilbanks agreed with the wildlife organization's mission, saying he does not want the alligator removed from the pond or destroyed. "They're part of nature and part of our lives," he said.

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Both Gunner and Wilbanks have recovered and are back to enjoying their regular walks—only now, the two walk on-leash and 10 feet away from the waters' edge.

The incident is a reminder to all pet owners to be cautious when adventuring out in nature. The National Park Service says to practice the B.A.R.K. principles when exploring wild spaces with your dog, which include keeping your pup leashed during hikes and respecting wildlife from a distance by staying on marked trails.