There have been at least a half dozen gator attacks this season around the Tampa Bay area. Eric Merda is one of those who lived to tell his story, but the alligator encounter cost him his right arm.
He said on July 17th, he got lost in the woods at the Lake Manatee Fish Camp north of Myakka City. When he finally found the lake, he decided to swim across rather than walk around.
“Not the smartest decision a Florida boy could make,” Merda said. “I looked over and there’s a gator on my right-hand side, so I went to swim and she got my forearm, so I grabbed her like this… she was trying to roll but she snapped her head so my arm went backward like this, completely.”
He said he fought for his life with the alligator locked onto his arm.
“She drugged me under three times. She’s already got my arm, so when we came up the third time, she finally did a death roll and took off with my arm,” said Merda.
That’s just where his story begins. Merda said he spent three days trying to find his way out of the woods.
“You can’t see anything. Everything’s this tall, you know what I mean? Sometimes, I felt like I was walking in circles, I didn’t know. So, I started following the sun and power lines, stuff like that, things I could see,” he said.
After three days in the swamp, he said he stumbled upon a fence with a man on the other side of it.
“I said, ‘Hey, man, I need some help,’ and he says, ‘What are you doing?’ And I said, ‘A gator got my arm,’ he said ‘Holy smokes, man,'” said Merda.
Now, he’s adapting to a new normal with a new perspective.
“Do not feed the gators, all right? And you guys know who you are, throwing rocks at them and stuff, I’ve seen it on the job sites; leave them gators alone.”