CAUGHT ON CAMERA: Man pries open alligator’s mouth to save puppy

Published: Nov. 21, 2020 at 10:34 AM CST
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ESTERO, Fla. (WINK) - Video shows a man jumping into action to save his puppy from the grip of an alligator.

“He just came out like a missile,” Richard Wilbanks said.

He didn’t think twice before he jumped into the water, wrestling the alligator to save his puppy Gunner’s life.

“They’re like children to us,” Richard Wilbanks said.

He pried opened the alligator’s mouth until it released his dog. Even after being dragged under water in the alligator’s jaws, Gunner is doing just fine.

“They had one little puncture wound. My hands were just chewed up,” Richard Wilbanks said. “But I was able to save Gunner’s life.”

The terrifying encounter was recorded due to a partnership between the Florida Wildlife Federation and the fStop Foundation.

“The video was jarring,” said Meredith Budd, the regional policy director at the Florida Wildlife Foundation.

The cameras, set up as part of a campaigned called Sharing the Landscape, typically capture videos of animals like deer or bobcats.

Their goal is to help people appreciate and understand the wildlife they live near. By doing so, they hope it helps reduce the conflicts that can sometimes happen between people and nature.

“It gives us a new appreciation. We do need to be aware they are wild animals,” Louise Wilbanks said. “They’re not here for our benefit. We’re very lucky to share the space with them.”

Gunner is now a little hesitant getting near the water, but Richard Wilbanks calls it a learning experience. He keeps Gunner away from the water now, and always on a leash.

“Keep your guard up, enjoy, but don’t get too close,” Louise Wilbanks said.

The Wilbanks decided not to call Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation Commission because he says it’s the alligator’s home that it was doing what an alligator does to survive.

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