NEAR BRADENTON, Fla. (WSVN) — Eric Merda was alone and severely injured at a lake near Bradenton. He had just been attacked by an alligator and is now missing his arm.

On July 17, Merda had just finished an irrigation job when he decided to stop near lake Manatee Fish Camp.

He said he threw away trash and got lost while walking in the woods.

“I finally found the water, I’ve seen where my truck was and decided I could swim across it,” Merda said.

Merda said it was dark when he jumped in. Halfway across the lake, he encountered the gator.

“I decided to swim, and she grabbed the outside of my arm like this and I grabbed her,” he said. “I didn’t want her rolling over on me because I knew about that. She snapped my arm backwards, then she [dragged] me under three times.”

Merda said he kept kicking and eventually the gator let go.

“It’s do or die. Do you want to live or die?” he said. “I was given the opportunity to make a choice, and I decided to live.”

While he relives those moments over and over in his head, and although his arm is gone, Merda said the attack gave him something to live for.

“I’m actually thriving. I’m going up, and I’m not coming back down,” he said.

After recent gator attacks, Merda has asked others to listen to his message to ensure others stay safe.

“Leave the alligators alone. More times than not, it’s not the people’s fault that are getting attacked. It’s the people throwing rocks and giving them food,” he said.

Merda hopes to be fitted with a prosthetic arm later this week.

According to experts, feeding alligators causes them to lose their fear of humans.

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