FORT MYERS, Fla. – Newly released footage shows a Florida man rescuing his dog from the grasp of an alligator, an unexpected moment captured on film by a project designed to monitor local wildlife.
The dramatic video shows the man jumping into waist-deep pond water after the alligator dragged the dog underwater. The man submerges his whole arm to bring the small dog to the surface, with the small alligator still latched on.
The dog yelps as the man struggles to free it from the gator’s grasp, loudly grunting from the strain. After about 12 seconds, the man succeeds in freeing his pet, and it scampers ashore.
The organization that captured the video says the man and his dog are OK.
The footage was shot as part of a project between the Florida Wildlife Federation and the fStop Foundation, called Sharing the Landscape. The project involves residents who live in areas that border wild habitat in Lee County volunteering to have cameras placed in their backyards to document wildlife that live and share the same landscape, according to Meredith Budd, regional policy director for the wildlife federation.
Richard Wilbanks of Estero was one of the residents selected to have a camera in his backyard.
According to Budd, Wilbanks was captured saving his dog from an alligator near the end of October. The foundations had no idea what had happened until they collected the memory cards and saw the footage just this past week, she said.
Budd said “the homeowners took their dog to the vet and the man was also checked out and all parties involved are healthy and OK.”
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The puppy — named Gunner, a 3-month-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel — has recovered from a puncture wound, Wilbanks told CNN.
“I never thought an alligator could be that fast. It was so quick,” Wilbanks told the network. He also said he was fine, but his hands had been hurt and he received a tetanus shot.
The camera project began as a way to increase the conversation about how humans and wildlife share the same landscape. As residential developments encroach on wildlife habitat in Southwest Florida, Budd said education on co-existence with wildlife is important to help reduce conflict between humans and wildlife.
“Wildlife is all around us and we are all a part of the same ecosystem,” she said. “Each species plays an important role and contributes to keeping our environment healthy.”
The ultimate goal of the project is to take the footage captured from the volunteers’ properties and create a video to help educate people about living amongst wildlife.
“It is critical that people who live at the interface of wild land take extra precautions —dogs should be leashed and both people and pets should avoid lingering at the edge of large retention ponds where alligators are known to occupy,” Budd said.
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