(CNN) — In a dramatic encounter recorded by surveillance cameras, a Florida man chased an alligator underwater and rescued his 3-month-old cub from the jaws of death.
Richard Wilbanks, 74, of Estero, Florida, ran to his backyard pond, battled the lizard on the surface, and opened its jaws to free Gunner, his Cavalier King Charles spaniel.
“We were walking across the pond,” Wilbanks told CNN, “and it came out of the water like a missile. I never thought an alligator could be so fast. It was so fast.
He said adrenaline or instinct kicked in and “I automatically jumped into the water.”
Holding the crocodile was not that difficult, but opening the jaws was “extremely difficult,” he said.
Wilbanks said his hands were “bitten” and that he went to a doctor for a tetanus shot.
Gunner had a puncture wound to his abdomen and did well after a trip to the vet.
The rescue south of Fort Myers was caught on camera due to a partnership between the Florida Federation of Wildlife and the fSTOP Foundation.
“We live in a shared landscape,” Meredith Budd of the wildlife federation told the affiliate. WINK. “Not only do we want to tolerate wildlife, we want to thrive with wildlife in a shared landscape.”
Wilbanks agrees with that mission and does not want the alligator to be pulled from the pond or euthanized.
“They are part of nature and part of our lives,” he said.
He still takes Gunner for a walk, but keeps the pup on a leash, and 10 feet from the edge of the pond. “Our pets are like a family to us,” he said.