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A retired man leapt into a pond and wrestled his puppy from the jaws of an alligator, and the dramatic incident was captured on camera


Puppy alligator rescue thumb
Richard Wilbanks rescuing puppy Gunner from the jaws of an alligator. CNN/Wink/Florida Wildlife Federation/fSTOP Foundation
  • A retiree rescued his 3-month-old puppy from the jaws of an alligator.

  • Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Gunner, was snatched by the creature from a pond in Estero, Florida, and the dramatic incident was captured on surveillance camera.

  • Wilbanks told CNN natural instinct took over, and he immediately got into the water to free the pup.

  • Both dog and owner are now doing fine, but keeping their distance from the water.

  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A retired man from Florida rescued his puppy from the jaws of an alligator, and the incident was captured on camera.

Richard Wilbanks, 74, said instinct took over after his 3-month-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Gunner, was snatched by an alligator.

The incident, which took place in Wilbanks’ backyard pond in Estero, was recorded on a surveillance camera as part of a partnership between the Florida Wildlife Federation and the fSTOP Foundation.


The dramatic footage shows Wilbanks waist-deep in the water, prizing the alligator’s jaws so Gunner can run free.

“We were just out walking by the pond and it came out of the water like a missile,” Wilbanks told CNN. “I never thought an alligator could be that fast. It was so quick. I just automatically jumped into the water.”

Opening the alligator’s mouth was “extremely hard,” Wilbanks said, and his hands were left “chewed up.” He went to the doctor for a tetanus shot afterward.

Gunner was also taken to see a vet after the incident — he was left with one puncture wound in his belly but is fine otherwise.

“They’re like children to us, so there was no second thought whatsoever,” Wilbanks told Wink News.

The cameras that captured the incident are set up to monitor mainly bobcats and deer, to help people understand and appreciate wildlife better.

“We live on a shared landscape,” Meredith Budd, the Florida Wildlife Federation regional policy director, told Wink News. “We don’t just want to tolerate wildlife, but, rather, we want to thrive with wildlife on a shared landscape.”

Wilbanks agrees that alligators are a part of nature, but he says he’ll be keeping Gunner on a leash and well back from the water’s edge from now on.

“Our pets, they’re just like family to us,” he said.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) small dogs and cats are about the same size as the alligators’ natural prey, so care should be taken.

Insider has reached out to the Florida Wildlife Federation and the fSTOP Foundation for further comment.

Read more:

A startling video shows an alligator ramming into a kayaker and tipping him into the water

Serena Williams had a hilarious encounter with an alligator while walking in her neighborhood: ‘I ain’t trying to go out like that’

I did puppy yoga with 10 adorable Yorkshire terrier pups, and it was the most fun I’ve had working out

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