Sharing the Landscape: Gator and Gunner Come To An Agreement, More or Less

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The macro view of things remains dark - plague raging, planet burning, evil clowns blustering - so we're gonna start the week with a serendipitous alligator wrasslin' match where all parties involved swam, scampered and staggered away. Wildlife surveillance cameras in Estero, Florida captured the moment when 74-year-old retiree Richard Wilbanks rushed into a pond to save his puppy from the jaws of a small alligator looking for lunch. Wilbanks was walking his 3-month-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel Gunner when the gator “came out of the water like a missile." Cameras set up through a partnership between the Florida Wildlife Federation and the fSTOP Foundation, usually to document passing critters, recorded Wilbanks submerged in the pond, struggling to grab onto the alligator before emerging with it, a squealing Gunner still dangling from its jaws. Wilbank battles to pry the jaws open; eventually, Gunner drops out and scurries off as Wilbank then manages to extract his own hands. Best touch: He never drops the cigar clenched in his mouth.

Later, Wilbanks said instinct and adrenaline kicked in in the moment. “(Pets are) like children to us, so there was no second thought whatsoever," he said. "I just went right in the water after the gator and Gunner." Everyone survived reasonably intact: Gunner saw a vet for a small puncture wound on his stomach but is ok if a bit freaked out by the water, Wilbanks' hands were "just chewed up," and the gator floated off, presumably in search of easier pickings. Wilbanks plans to keep Gunner leashed from now on; he chalks up the excitement to "a learning experience" and recognizes with admirable equanimity the gator was simply doing his hungry thing: "They're part of nature and part of our lives." His wife likewise urged others to appreciate the natural bounty around them, but not too close. Their position is supported by area wildlife experts, who advocate that all living things - bipeds, pets, diverse reptilian creatures regardless of grudges or antipathies or zealous narrow convictions, learn to "share the landscape." Not a rancorous moment too soon.

Gunner and his human. Photo by WBBH.

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