Buckle up folks, Florida Man is back. This isn’t your typical Florida Man story though – this time, FloridaMan is the superhero we desperately needed. While out walking near his backyard pond as he’s done countless times in the past, 74-year-old Richard Wilbanks had an encounter he won’t soon forget. Wilbanks took his 3-month-old puppy out for a walk, and unfortunately, a hungry alligator was quietly lurking under the pond’s surface.
Typically, when we see videos of alligators, it’s their powerful jaws and mammoth size that makes our blood run cold. Our only saving grace (or so we thought) is that their legs, though clawed and terrifying, are disproportionately small. They don’t seem like they’d be the most coordinated of creatures, let alone the fastest. But as Wilbanks, unfortunately, found out, a nearby snack is enough motivation for these short-legged predators to kick it up a notch.
“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.”
Before Wilbanks’s brain could catch up with his adrenaline-fueled body, the Florida retiree was in the pond with beloved puppy, his hands wrapped around the jaws of the alligator. He managed to keep the young alligator still as he poured all of his effort into prying open its powerful jaws.
After a Herculean struggle that was caught on nearby security cameras, our hero freed his helpless pup from the nearly 4-foot-long alligator’s grip. As if the remarkable save wasn’t impressive enough, this absolutely beast of a man held his cigar in his mouth throughout the entire encounter (which is honestly the most Florida Man thing we can imagine).
Wilbanks’s hands were cut badly from the alligator’s teeth, but after a trip to the doctor and a tetanus shot, he’s healing well. As for his puppy Gunner, incredibly, the dog was less injured than he was. With a single puncture wound on his abdomen, a trip to the vet was all he needed before returning home for some much-needed rest.
As for the alligator, well, he didn’t get his meal. But because of a partnership between the Florida Wildlife Federation and fSTOP, an organization geared towards conservation education through photography, residents of the area value living alongside native wildlife.
Wilbanks told CNN, “They’re part of nature and part of our lives.”
He explained that he didn’t want the alligator removed or hurt in any way, but he will be taking precautions by walking farther from the pond in the future.
“Our pets, they’re just like family to us,” Wilbanks said.
You hear that, alligators? Dogs are friends, not food.