Florida Dog Rescued from the Jaws of an Alligator

By Jonathan Wood, November 2020

A Florida man wrestled his dog away from an alligator who had snatched the young pup as the two strolled along the pond the alligator calls home. Nearly as incredible as the dramatic rescue was the fact that it was recorded by surveillance cameras.

 

A harrowing rescue of young dog from the jaws of a Florida alligator was incredibly caught on video recently. The surveillance camera footage shows the dramatic encounter of Richard Wilbanks, 74, and a young alligator, tussling in the water as Wilbank’s 3-month-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is caught in the animal’s jaws. The video was shown on the local news, and thankfully, the sound was turned off to spare viewers the dog’s screams. And as dramatic as the footage is, not a drop of blood is shown and all survived.

“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 that fast. It was so quick.”

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Wilbanks says his adrenaline or instinct kicked in, and “I just automatically jumped into the water.” Holding the alligator wasn’t so tough, but prying open the jaws was “extremely hard,” he said. While the 74-year-old looks to be fit and in good health, an adrenaline rush can result in a stimulated physical state that provides abnormal strength in the face of danger. Yes, those stories of mothers lifting a car to save a child can be true.

Gunnar, the dog, escaped with a single puncture to his belly and is recovering nicely after a visit to the veterinarian. Wilbank’s hands suffered numerous cuts and were, in his words, “chewed up.” A trip to the doctor and a tetanus shot were required.

The rescue south of Fort Myers, Florida was caught on camera because of a partnership between the Florida Wildlife Federation and the fSTOP Foundation. Usually, the surveillance cameras are more apt to capture glimpses of deer and bobcats along the pond’s foliage. The goal of the project is to help people appreciate and understand the wildlife they live near and help reduce the conflicts that can sometimes happen between people and nature.

“We live on a shared landscape,” said Meredith Budd of the wildlife federation. “We don’t just want to tolerate wildlife, but, rather, we want to thrive with wildlife on a shared landscape.” Wilbanks agrees with that mission and he doesn’t want the alligator removed from the pond or destroyed. “They're part of nature and part of our lives,” he said. In an interview with the local ABC news affiliate, Wilbanks and his wife were quite conciliatory to the alligator, recognizing the wildlife’s right to live with them side by side.

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

This incident is a reminder that many of us now share space with wildlife—coyotes, mountain lions and alligators—that can pose very real dangers to pets. So, take proper precautions to keep pets safe in such environments. Wilbanks still plans to take Gunnar walking in the area, but on-leash and a good distance away from the pond’s edge.