Florida Man Saves Puppy From Gator Barehanded, Still Doesn’t Drop Cigar

Written by Kirstin Harrington
Updated: October 9, 2022
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Whether you’re looking for busy nightlife, private beaches, or backyards filled with alligators, Florida’s got it all! It was just a regular day for one couple in the Sunshine State until the husband was face to face with a gator! 

Richard Wilbanks was enjoying a day off in his backyard with his adorable 3-month-old puppy, Gunner. The dynamic duo went for a stroll by the pond close to the Wilbanks’ house on a Sunday morning in late October. Unknown to Richard or Gunner, an alligator was on guard as the two were strolling along the shoreline.

The nearly 4-foot alligator jumped out of the water in a split second and snatched Gunner. Richard jumped into the water without thinking and chased the dog and the alligator that was holding it in its mouth. When you’re in a situation like this, your instincts kick in and Wilkbanks wasn’t going to let the animal get away with taking his pup. 

“I turned around, I heard him yelp and I turned around and I saw the alligator swimming off with him and I just jumped in the water,” says the resident of Lee County. “I caught up with the alligator and grabbed him and wrestled him up to the bank and then had to pry his mouth open to get Gunner out.”

Fight or Flight

The noise and movements of small creatures attract alligators. According to reports, they enjoy eating dogs. If you do take your dog for a stroll close to the water, keep it on a leash and keep an eye out for any activity in or close to the water.

Richard, with a lit cigar in his mouth, reaches into the water and pulled out the gator that has Gunner tightly gripped between its teeth. Wilbanks uses all his strength to pry the alligator’s jaw wide open to loosen the grip for his dog to escape. Gunner jumps out of the animal’s mouth and runs up to the grassy shore. 

“It was like a missile,” Richard says about the terrifying moment. “We were only about 3 feet away from it, but it struck like a snake. It had Gunner in a vise grip and I just rushed in.”

Here at A to Z Animals, we know that any pet owner would do the same. Our furry friends are family and when the flight or fight response kicks in, we know you’ll do what you have to ensure your four-legged friend is safe. We’re glad both Richard and Gunner walked away with minor scratches and one heck of a story to tell! 

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About the Author

When she's not busy playing with her several guinea pigs or her cat Finlay Kirstin is writing articles to help other pet owners. She's also a REALTOR® in the Twin Cities and is passionate about social justice. There's nothing that beats a rainy day with a warm cup of tea and Frank Sinatra on vinyl for this millennial.

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