Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Video of Dramatic Puppy Rescue Is Also a Lesson in Pet Safety Near Alligators

Video of Dramatic Puppy Rescue Is Also a Lesson in Pet Safety Near Alligators
Florida Wildlife Federation / NBC2News / YouTube

In a dramatic rescue captured on camera, a Florida man ran into a pond and pried open an alligator's mouth in order to rescue his beloved puppy, all without dropping his cigar.

The protagonist of the video is 74-year-old Richard Wilbanks of Estero, Florida, who risked his hands in order to save his three-month old Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Gunner from the jaws of an almost four-foot alligator.

"It was like a missile," Willbanks told the Fort Myers News-Press of the alligator. "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."

Wilbanks told CNN that grabbing a hold of the gator was the easy part. The hard part was prying its jaws open. After Wilbanks managed to free Gunner, the alligator then bit down on his hands, the Fort Myers News-Press reported.

"He had one little puncture wound, and... my hands were just chewed up," Wilbanks told WINK.

After tending to his hands, Wilbanks rushed Gunner to the animal hospital, where he was treated for a puncture wound, the Fort-Myers News Press reported. However, he has now fully recovered.

Wilbanks has learned from the incident. He has bought Gunner a new leash, and plans to keep him at least 10 feet from the pond at all times.

He has "a new leash on life," Wilbanks told the Fort Myers News-Press.

Education is also the reason that footage of the rescue was made public. Wilbanks' property borders a nature reserve, and a partnership between the Florida Wildlife Federation (FWF) and the fSTOP Foundation put cameras in the area to monitor wildlife. All told, there are 17 cameras in 15 backyards in Estero.

The purpose of the project, called Sharing the Landscape, is to teach residents how to live safely and respectfully with wild animals.

"We live on a shared landscape," FWF regional policy director Meredith Budd told WINK. "We don't just want to tolerate wildlife, but, rather, we want to thrive with wildlife on a shared landscape."

The project decided to share the video of the rescue, which was captured late in October, in order to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

"If we understand how to deal with them [wildlife], how to interact with them. The outcome is always positive," William Freund of the fSTOP Foundation told NBC2.

Wilbanks and his wife Louise have loved living so close to nature, and their close call hasn't changed their point of view. Willbanks told WINK he did not call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) because he understood that the alligator was just doing what he needed to do to survive.

"It gives us a new appreciation," Louise told WINK. "We do need to be aware they are wild animals. They're not here for our benefit. We're very lucky to share this space with them."

Wilbanks told the Fort Myers News-Press that the alligator was still swimming in the pond.

FWC told WINK that alligators rarely cause serious injuries in Florida, but that pet owners should take proper precautions.

"We encourage everyone to take precautionary measures, particularly those who live or recreate near the water. Dogs and cats are similar in size to the natural prey of alligators," the FWC said in a statement.

Valley of the Gods in the heart of Bears Ears National Monument. Mint Images / Getty Images

By Sharon Buccino

This week, Secretary Haaland chose a visit to Bears Ears National Monument as her first trip as Interior Secretary. She is spending three days in Bluff, Utah, a small town just outside the monument, listening to representatives of the five tribes who first proposed its designation to President Obama in 2015. This is the same town where former Secretary Sally Jewell spent several hours at a public hearing in July 2016 before recommending the monument's designation to President Obama.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Anthony Richardson, Chhaya Chaudhary, David Schoeman, and Mark John Costello

The tropical water at the equator is renowned for having the richest diversity of marine life on Earth, with vibrant coral reefs and large aggregations of tunas, sea turtles, manta rays and whale sharks. The number of marine species naturally tapers off as you head towards the poles.

Read More Show Less
"Secrets of the Whales" is a new series that will start streaming on Disney+ on Earth Day. Disney+

In celebration of Earth Day, a star-studded cast is giving fans a rare glimpse into the secret lives of some of the planet's most majestic animals: whales. In "Secrets of the Whales," a four-part documentary series by renowned National Geographic Photographer and Explorer Brian Skerry and Executive Producer James Cameron, viewers plunge deep into the lives and worlds of five different whale species.

Read More Show Less
Spring is an excellent time to begin bird watching in earnest. Eugenio Marongiu / Cultura / Getty Images

The coronavirus has isolated many of us in our homes this year. We've been forced to slow down a little, maybe looking out our windows, becoming more in tune with the rhythms of our yards. Perhaps we've begun to notice more, like the birds hopping around in the bushes out back, wondering (maybe for the first time) what they are.

Read More Show Less
The brown pelican is seen on Queen Bess Island in Louisiana in March 2021. Casey Wright / LDWF biologist

Who says you can't go home again?

Read More Show Less