A Florida airboat captain whose hand was bitten off by an alligator has been hit with a charge of “unlawful feeding,” according to the First Coast News. Sixty-three-year-old Wallace Weatherholt was booked into Collier County, Florida jail over the weekend and released on $1,000 bond. The Everglades guide is due back in court on August 22.
Weatherholt, an Everglades City resident, was leading a family on a swamp tour June 12 when the attack took place. The boat captain dangled a fish over the water to lure a 9-foot alligator closer to his boat. The animal lunged and took the fish, as well as Weatherholt’s hand at the wrist.
The alligator was later tracked down and killed by Florida Fish and Wildlife officials. Weatherholt’s hand was recovered from its stomach, but it could not be reattached to his arm.
Feeding alligators is a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida because of the animals’ tendency to become agressive. The crime is punishable by a $500 fine and possible jail time. (To be clear, it is the fish that Weatherholt is charged with feeding the alligator, not his hand.)
Alligator trapper and hunter David Weathers told the Fort Myers News-Press that Weatherholt should have known better. Gators, he said, are not normally inclined to attack humans.
“If they see us, they take off. They see us as these giants hovering over them. They’re not going to attack unless they’ve been fed,” he said.
Weatherholt’s employer, Captain Doug’s Everglades Tours told the Associated Press that the organization does not condone the feeding of alligators.
Watch video about the alligator attack, which originally aired June 12, embedded via YouTube, below: