Florida Man Survives Three Days in Woods After Alligator Bites Off Arm

A man in Florida who managed to survive for three days lost in the woods after an alligator tore off his arm has spoken about his ordeal two months after the attack.

Eric Merda, a 43-year-old Sarasota resident, fell victim to the alligator after he decided to take a swim at Lake Manatee Fish Camp in Myakka City on July 17.

It turned out to be "not the smartest decision a Florida boy could make," Merda told Florida news station 10 Tampa Bay on September 5. As he was swimming, he was attacked by an alligator that gripped his right forearm in its jaws.

Merda reached over to grab the animal in an unsuccessful attempt to free his arm. He said he was then dragged underwater three times before the alligator "finally did her death roll and took off with my arm."

A death roll is the name given to the rapid spinning maneuver that crocodilians, including alligators, perform to subdue and dismember prey.

Florida is known for its large alligator population. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) there are an estimated 1.3 million alligators in the state that inhabit all wild areas that can support them.

As such, human-alligator encounters and conflicts occur. Over the last 10 years, Florida has averaged eight unprovoked alligator bites per year that required medical treatment, the FWC said in November, 2021.

Between 1948 and 2021, there were 442 unprovoked bite incidents in the state, 26 of which were fatal.

Alligator
A stock photo shows an alligator in a Florida swamp. A Florida man says he survived being lost in a swamp for three days before finding help after an alligator attack. williamhc/Getty

Merda managed to swim back to shore and started to walk in search of help. Describing the grisly state of his arm, he told 10 Tampa Bay he could see bones and muscles exposed.

He said he spent three days trying to find his way out of the swamp. Feeling like he was walking in circles, he decided to follow the sun and power lines that he could see.

Finally, Merda said he encountered a man on the other side of a fence who asked him what he was doing. "I said a gator got my arm, he says 'holy smokes man!'"

In an interview with Fox13 Tampa Bay from the time, the man who found Merda said: "I didn't know if he was dead or alive when I first walked upon him. And there's nothing, no words can describe it, you know. He 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."

Merda was taken to hospital where doctors amputated most of his right arm.

Now, Merda's family is asking for financial help to help him adjust to his new life. "He will no longer be able to do the work he loves, and many other things he loved doing," his aunt Evelyn James wrote in a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe, titled 'my nephew the born survivor, gets attacked.'

"My heart is broken but we are so thankful he is alive," James added.

In a message to others, Merda told 10 Tampa Bay that people should be cautious around Florida waters. "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," he said.

He told Fox13 Tampa Bay he is happy to be alive: "It's do or die," he said. "Do you want to live or die. I was given the opportunity to make a chance, and I decided to live. I'm thriving. I'm actually thriving. I'm going up, and I'm not coming back down."