No story embodies the adage “adding insult to injury” more than Captain Wallace Weatherholt’s. The boat operator for Captain Doug’s Small Airport Tours in Everglades City, Florida had his hand bitten off at the wrist in an unfortunate encounter with an alligator while he was leading a tour group through the everglades on June 12.
Last Friday, Weatherholt, 63, was arrested for the misdemeanor of illegally feeding an alligator, according to the Fort Myers News-Press. Since his arrest, he has posted bail and is set to appear in court on August 22.
Shortly after the incident, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officers began an investigation into whether the alligator was fed or provoked to bite.
FWC Conservation Commission Officer Jorge Pino said the law is in place to protect both the animal and the human in such cases.
The alligator that bit Weatherholt’s hand off was trapped by FWC officials later that day and killed to retrieve the captain’s hand. Although it was obtained relatively quickly, the hand could not be reattached.
Pino expressed his sympathy for Weatherholt, but said that the law must still be followed. In this case, a follow-up sentencing is required to prevent this from happening in the future.
“As soon as you say there’s an alligator that’s not afraid of humans, that’s like signing a death warrant for that alligator,” he added. “The more people abide by the rules on the books, the safer the gators will be, and more importantly, the safer the humans will be.”
Alligator feeding is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $500 fine and potential jail time.