Terrifying moment alligator emerges from murky water to clamp down on shark tooth collector’s HEAD as he was snorkeling for huge megalodon fossils

Terrifying moment alligator emerges from murky water to clamp down on shark tooth collector’s HEAD as he was snorkeling for huge megalodon fossils

Terrifying GoPro footage captured the moment an alligator clamped down on the head of a shark tooth collector as he waded through a Florida river.

Jeff Heim, a collector specializing in ancient megalodon teeth, recalled his scrape with death in 2021 this week, saying the gator bit him ‘twice before I knew it’.

‘It was very powerful. It seemed a lot larger than it actually was,’ he told Florida Fourth Estate.

He believes he was only spared by the waterproof camera strapped to his head – which recorded the frenzied ordeal – and if he didn’t wear the camera ‘my head would’ve exploded.’

Heim said the attack came as he was steadily sifting through the bed of Florida’s Myakka River for megalodon teeth, and believed the initial glancing blow from the beast was a boat clipping his head.

‘That to me is why it wasn’t as scary, because there’s no anticipation,’ he said. ‘It’s like, you blink and things are different.’

As the gator made contact, Heim’s GoPro filmed the moment the murky water before him became filled with bubbles while he thrashed in a moment of reaction.

He says he quickly calmed down thanks to his understanding of the predators as the alligator went in for another bite, saying: ‘You never want to thrash or splash or act like prey, so I stayed calm.’

Heim avoided several more attempted strikes by the alligator in the muddy river, which he ‘backed away from slowly and calmly’, which he knew to do because he had ‘dove around sharks’ many times before.

He said the extent of his injuries were not immediately clear to him, until he felt a large flap of his skull had been torn from his head in the shape of the alligator’s snout.

‘This was ripped open,’ he said, pointing at a large U-shaped scar on the side of his head. ‘And it was flapping, and hanging this way.’

After clambering to the riverbank and calling for help at a nearby restaurant, he was rushed to hospital, where paramedics stapled his head 34 times – leading to grisly images of large scars zig-zagging across his scalp.

Heim was also bit in the hand during the attack, and was treated for severe puncture wounds.

He said the near-death experience only began to dawn on him after a paramedic warned him there would be ‘a lot of people looking’ at him when he arrived at the hospital.

‘I was just pretty loopy, the severity of the moment hadn’t set in yet… I was a little lighthearted with it and was trying to be funny,’ he said, and admitted he even tried to peddle his social media handles to nurses amid the attention.

Wildlife officials captured the alligator following the incident, and measured it at 6ft 4 inches, but Heim said it was found to have a large chunk of its tail missing and was likely closer to eight feet.

The nature lover insisted that the gator shouldn’t be put to death after the attack, and he recalled pleading from his hospital bed: ‘Whatever you can do, please don’t kill that alligator, I was in her home.’

However, in an ironic twist, he said when the wildlife officials approached the gator, who they were not intent on killing anyway, a huge 13-foot alligator unexpectedly leapt from the water and attacked and killed the animal.

Now, two years on from the moment and with his injuries healed, Heim said he cites the GoPro on his head from deflecting part of the strike and saving his life, saying: ‘I still don’t think I felt the full force of that bite.’

‘And if I did, my head would’ve exploded.’

Although he continues to dive for megalodon teeth regularly, and donates the profits to wildlife organizations, Heim added that he has a much safer approach these days and thinks he was reckless.

He concluded: ‘I did know the dangers, but I don’t think I took them seriously enough back then.’

Heim's horrific head wounds saw him almost lose a large chunk of his head, and was left with long scars zig-zagging across his scalp
Heim’s horrific head wounds saw him almost lose a large chunk of his head, and was left with long scars zig-zagging across his scalp

Despite almost losing his head in the attack, Heim was far from deterred from diving into dangerous waters again, and went on to set up his company SHRKco, which collects and sells ancient shark teeth.

Just two months after the gator chomp, he also went on to make his best catch yet, when he retrieved a ‘miracle’ six-inch megalodon tooth from a Florida seabed.

In footage shared to TikTok that was viewed over 4.5 million times, the giant tooth was seen buried in deep green seawater, before Heim was visibly ecstatic as he picked it up.

He described the find as ‘one of the best days of my life’, as he screamed with happiness while emerging from the water holding the half-a-foot tooth.

This article by Will Potter was first published by The Daily Mail on 16 January 2024. Lead Image: The person involved in the incident has since expressed that searching during the gator mating season was unwise. Image credit: William Cushman/Shutterstock.com.

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