Florida Man Who Got Arm Bitten Off By Alligator and Survived in Swamp Gives Wild Interview

by Craig Garrett

A Florida man is opening up about a recent nightmarish alligator attack that resulted in the loss of one of his arms. After a gator bit Eric Merda’s arm off while swimming in Lake Manatee, he spent three exhausting days on the swamp with one arm, Tampa’s WTSP reports. There have been at least a half-dozen gator attacks in the Tampa Bay region this season, the most recent of which involved a 77-year-old woman over Labor Day weekend. Merda is one of those fortunate individuals who were able to share his experience.

“Not the smartest decision a Florida boy could make,” Merda told WTSP. On July 17, Merda got lost in the woods at Lake Manatee Fish Camp in Myakka City. He eventually located the lake and decided to swim across rather than trek around.

“I look over and there’s [an alligator] 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 backwards like this completely,” Merda recalled. He continued to fight for his life as the alligator dragged him three times beneath the water.

The alligator attack was just the start of a 3 day nightmare

“She’s already got my arm, so when we came up the third time, she finally did her death roll and took off with my arm,” Merda explained. However, the ordeal with the alligator was just the beginning. He swam back to where he started, and then he began walking around, screaming for help. “Bones poking out, muscles, if I try to move my fingers, you could see it twitching,” he struggled to recall.

Merda spent three fruitless days meandering around the dismal swamp, trying to find an exit.”I felt like I was walking in circles, I didn’t know,” Merda said. “So I followed the sun and power lines, stuff I could see.” On the third day, he found a fence and someone on the other side. “I said [an alligator] got my arm, he said, ‘holy smokes man!'” Merda recalled. The first thing Merda requested was water. Then, he was stretchered off to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where surgeons removed most of his right arm.

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced Merda’s alligator encounter on July 21. Merda claims he’s adjusting to a new routine with a different outlook, and he wants to warn other people about the need for caution in Florida waterways. “Do not feed the gators and you guys know who you are, throwing rocks at them, I’ve seen it on the job sites, leave them gators alone,” Merda cautions. WTSP shared portions of the interview with Merda on their Youtube.