A Florida man lost his arm in a grizzly alligator attack, only to spend the next three days wandering the swamp looking for help.
Eric Merda, 43, of Sarasota, was visiting the Lake Manatee Fish Camp in Myakka City on July 17 when he got lost in the woods. When he arrived back at the lake, he opted to swim across it as opposed to walking around.
“Not the smartest decision a Florida boy could make,” Merda admitted during an interview with 10 Tampa Bay that aired Monday.
Not long into his swim, he told reporters, “I look over and there’s a gator on my right-hand side.”
“She got my forearm so I grabbed her like this, she was trying to roll by she snapped her head so my arm with backwards like this completely.”
Merda said the gator dragged him underwater three times before doing the death roll and taking off with his right arm.
After swimming back to shore, Merda started walking and screaming for help.
“Bones poking out, muscles, if I try to move my fingers, you could see it twitching,” Merda said.
He struggled to put the physical pain into words.
After three days of wandering, Merda came upon a fence with a man on the other side.
“I said a gator got me arm, he said, ‘holy smokes man!’” Merda described the meeting.
In an interview with Fox13 Tampa Bay, the man who helped Merda, who remains unnamed, said “I didn’t know if he was dead or alive when I first walked upon him.”
“They cut the fence, they helped him up, and he actually walked to the ambulance.”
Merda was immediately flown to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where doctors amputated the remnants of his arm.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported Merna’s attack on July 21. A nuisance alligator trapper was sent to the area, but it is unclear if any gators were subsequently removed.
Less than two months after the incident, Merda is still grappling with his new normal, but appears in high spirits. In a recent Facebook post, he described himself as “spiritually strong physically strong mentally and emotionally superb.”
While he says he is “actually thriving” post-attack, Merda warned fellow Floridians against provoking alligators.
“Do not feed the gators,” he counseled.
“And you guys know who you are, throwing rocks at them, I’ve seen it on the job sites, leaving them gators alone.”
Merda could not be immediately reached for comment.
Although the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) says that serious injuries from alligators are rare, Merda is one of several people to be attacked in the state in recent months.
Earlier this week, the Post reported on a 77-year-old woman who was pounced by a gator in her Bradenton gated community. In August, a young wildlife expert lost part of his arm during a routine interaction with an alligator at a park in Venus.