Florida Man Survives 3 Days in Swamp After Alligator Bites Off His Arm

"Not the smartest decision a Florida boy can make."

It might seem like a "Florida man" story assembled by artificial intelligence, but this really happened: A man in Florida survived for three days in a swamp after an alligator bit off his arm. Eric Merda was swimming in a lake when he encountered the massive reptile and soon had to fight for his life. Read on to find out what happened after Merda made what he later called "not the smartest decision a Florida boy can make."

1
Detour Results In Gator Attack

large alligator
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The 43-year-old Merda was visiting the Lake Manatee Fish Camp in Myakka City on July 17 when he got lost in the woods. Then he made a fateful decision: He decided to swim across instead of walking around. "I look over and there's a gator on my right-hand side," Merda told 10 Tampa Bay. "She got my forearm so I grabbed her like this—she was trying to roll." Merda said the alligator dragged him underwater three times as he tried to fight it off. Ultimately, "she took off with my arm," he said.

2
In Swamp for Three Days

10 Tampa Bay

Severely injured, Merda swam to shore and began yelling for help. He was in bad shape. Merda said he walked for three days until he found a fence and saw a man who he asked for help. "I said a gator got my arm. He said, 'Holy smokes, man!'" 

3
Rescuer Found Him In Swamp

10 Tampa Bay

The rescuer said he found Merda in the swamp. "I didn't know if he was dead or alive when I first walked upon him," the rescuer said. "And there's nothing—no words can describe it." The man told Fox News 13 that Merda was "in a lot of pain. He was like just help, help, help. He was talking to us and everything. They cut the fence, they helped him up, and he actually walked to the ambulance."

4
Words to the Wise

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Merda was flown to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where doctors amputated what was left of his arm. He had some advice: "Do not feed the gators. You know who you are!" he said. "Leave them gators alone!" Officials said an alligator trapper was sent to the area, but it's unclear if the alligator that injured Merda was found.

5
How Common Are Alligator Attacks?

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There have been at least six alligator attacks near Tampa so far this year, 10 Tampa Bay reported. Fatalities are rare, typically occurring about once a year. But two people have been killed by alligators in Tampa in 2022: On July 15, an 80-year-old woman was killed by a gator after she fell into the canal near her home at the Boca Royale Golf and Country Club. And in late May, a man believed to be looking for Frisbees in a lake was killed in Largo.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more
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