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A Florida man who says he was attacked by an alligator is in good spirits despite losing an arm and finding himself stranded in a swamp for three days.
Eric Merda, 43, says he had just finished an irrigation job in July in Parrish Florida when he decided to stop at Lake Manatee Fish Camp to throw away trash which resulted in him getting lost in the woods, WTVT-TV reported.
Merda told the outlet that he spotted his truck across a body of water and jumped into the water figuring he could swim to his vehicle. Halfway across the lake, Merda says he encountered an alligator that grabbed his arm and snapped it as it tried to pull him under the water three times.
“It’s do or die,” Merda explained. “Do you want to live or die. I was given the opportunity to make a chance, and I decided to live.”
After the alligator finally retreated, Merda says he was injured and lost in the swamp for three days before being found and airlifted to a hospital where doctors amputated his arm.
Despite losing the arm, Merda says he feels a new sense of purpose after the attack.
“I’m thriving,” Merda said. “I’m actually thriving. I’m going up, and I’m not coming back down.”
Florida Fish and Wildlife said that a contracted alligator trapper removed a six-foot and nine-foot alligator from the lake on the day after the Merda attack, WFLA-TV reported.
The agency says that 22 alligator bites have been reported in Florida this year after a total of 21 bite incidents in 2021.
Officials are warning residents not to feed alligators which is not only illegal but can also cause alligators to be more aggressive toward people and associate them with food availability.
“Leave the alligators alone,” Merda warned. “More times than not it’s not the people’s fault that are getting attacked. It’s the people throwing rocks and giving them food.”