Surveillance cameras have caught the dramatic moment (scroll down for video) when a Florida man waded to the aid of a puppy that had just been dragged underwater by an alligator.
74-year-old Richard Wilbanks, of Estero, ran into the pond in his backyard after seeing the helpless 3-month-old puppy disappear beneath the water.
Without any regard to his own safety, Mr Wilbanks managed to grab the alligator from beneath the zero visibility water before pulling it to the surface.
Mr Wilbanks then wrestled with the alligator, prizing open its jaws to rescue the puppy from certain death – all without even losing his cigar.
Mr Wilbanks told CNN: “We were just out walking by the pond, and it came out of the water like a missile.
“I never thought an alligator could be that fast. It was so quick.
He said adrenaline or instinct kicked in, and “I just automatically jumped into the water.”
Mr Wilbanks told reporters that holding the alligator ‘wasn’t hard’ but prying open the jaws was ‘extremely hard’.
Wilbanks suffered multiple lacerations to his hands as he wrangled with the alligator and its razor-sharp teeth. He went to the doctors to be checked over.
He was given the all-clear and had a tetanus shot just to be extra cautious.
The puppy, ‘Gunner,’ had a single puncture wound in his belly. He was taken to the vets and after being treated was released so that he could continue with his recovery at home.
The alligator has been left in peace thanks to a partnership between a local wildlife trust and residents.
Mr Wilbanks said that he does not want the alligator removed from his pond or destroyed.
“They’re part of nature and part of our lives” he added.
Mr Wilbanks still takes Gunner walking, but he keeps the puppy on a leash — and 10 feet from the pond’s edge. “Our pets, they’re just like family to us,” he said.
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