Jeffrey Heim, 25, was looking for Megalodon teeth in the Myakka River when he was hit with a force he initially mistook for a boat. Heim quickly realized, however, that he was “inside its mouth” and completely helpless should the alligator not let him go on its own.
“When I look up and the gator’s right in front of me and we’re looking at each other, I think we’re both confused,” Heim said in an interview with regional outlet WFLA.
As Heim explained, he would not have survived this gator encounter had the circumstances varied in any way.
“If it had knocked me out, I would have drowned,” he said. “If it had held on, it would have death-rolled. If it had got me anywhere else, I would have bled out. … The chance of me being able to walk away from that is why it was a miracle.”
Heim ultimately received 34 staples in his head after suffering a mild skull fracture. Heim, who also injured his hand during the gator encounter, is expected to make a full recovery.
Speaking with NBC News, Heim said his estimate as to the size of the gator was that it was roughly nine feet in length. Heim also theorized that the gator who attacked him in the middle of his Megalodon tooth search was a female who was simply acting in protection of her eggs.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission notes that gator “courtship” begins in early April, with mating starting in May or June. Females “build a mound nest of soil, vegetation, or debris” and deposit up to 46 eggs in late June or early July. As is the case each year, wildlife officials marked the beginning of mating season this A[ril by reminding the general public of the best practices with regards to taking extra safety precautions. Among the recommendations are to only swim during daylight.