ESTERO, Fla. - Video of a Florida man opening the jaws of an alligator to rescue his crying puppy has gone viral.
Richard Wilbanks, 74, had only had his dog, Gunner, for a week. The two were taking a stroll by the pond near his home when he says the alligator jumped out of the water and snatched the little dog, dragging him underwater.
"He got too close to the water," Wilbanks told FOX 35 News. "The alligator was underwater, I didn't see it. It just came out like a rocket!"
Without hesitation, Wilbanks jumped into the water, grabbed the alligator, and wrestled it to the edge of the pond, opening its jaws until it let Gunner go.
"It was just a reaction. Even though I had only had Gunner a short time, you just look at this face, those eyes, and ears... I was already in love with him, so attached to him, that I just reacted and went in after him."
Gunner, Wilbanks and the alligator are all doing fine after the incident, which was caught on wildlife cameras set up by Florida Wildlife Federation and the fSTOP Foundation, which have a partnership.
It’s part of a campaign called “Sharing the Landscape” which aims to help people appreciate and understand the ‘shared landscape’ we have with wildlife, learn to co-exist, and help reduce conflicts – such as this recent situation.
Besides hailing Wilbanks as a hero, many viewers were impressed that he was able to keep a cigar in his mouth the entire time!
"I guess I had clamped down on that cigar just like that alligator clamped down on Gunner," Wilbanks joked, adding that he ended up losing the cigar at some point. "I wish I had retrieved it somewhere on the bank for a later time and kept it as a souvenir."
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