Dramatic images have emerged of a retired man chasing an underwater alligator after it grabbed his puppy from a pond.
Cigar smoking Richard Wilbanks, 74, hopped on his way to meet his three-month-old spaniel, named Gunnar, when he was grabbed by the alligator from his backyard pond in Florida, USA.
Mr. Wilbanks immediately jumped into the pond to rescue his puppy, who had been dragged underwater.
He bravely put his hands into the alligator’s jaws and held them wide open for his puppy to escape.
Said Mr. Wilbanks CNN: “We just walked by the pond and it came out of the water like a rocket. I never thought an alligator could be that fast. It was that fast.”
He said he didn’t think about it for a second but “just automatically jumped into the water”.
While it was not that difficult to hold the alligator, Mr. Wilbanks said, it was “extremely difficult” to keep the jaws open.
The whole incident left Wilbanks with “chewed up” hands, which meant he had to go to the doctor for a tetanus shot.
Gunner managed to escape the gruesome attack with only a single stab wound to his stomach, but he is now in good health after a vet visit.
Mr. Wilbanks has since kept Gunner on a leash and 10 feet from the edge of the pond.
“Our pets are like family to us,” he told the US News Channel.
The heroic act south of Fort Myers made the rounds on the internet after he was caught on a security camera by the Florida Wildlife Federation.
“We live in a shared landscape,” Meredith Budd of the wildlife federation told CNN WINK. “We not only want to tolerate wildlife, but rather we want to thrive with wildlife in a shared landscape.”
Mr. Wilbanks agreed with the conservation efforts, saying he does not want the alligator removed or destroyed from the pond.
“They are part of nature and part of our life,” he said.