Wallace Weatherholt, a Florida airboat captain who was attacked by an alligator in the Everglades and had his right hand bitten off, was–strange as it may seem–arrested on a charge of unlawful feeding of an alligator.
The incident occurred back on June 12, but Weatherholt was arrested on Friday following an investigation by Florida Fish and Wildlife officers into whether Weatherholt allegedly provoked the attack when the nine-foot-long gator jumped out of the water and sank its teeth into his wrist.
According to the Ft. Myers News-Press, passengers on the airboat claimed that “Weatherholt hung a fish over the side of the boat and had his hand at the water’s surface when the alligator attacked.” Weatherholt was giving a family a tour of the Everglades when the attack occurred.
In Florida, feeding an alligator is a misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $500 and possible prison time (although the latter seems highly unlikely in this instance). The basis of the law is that alligators are more likely to attack if they are fed; feeding them causes alligators to lose their natural fear of humans.
Despite his horrible injury, the New York Daily News reports that “the boat captain managed to steer the boat back to the docks and immediately went to the hospital, but doctors were unable to reattach his hand. Wildlife officers tracked down and euthanized the alligator soon after.”
After posting a $1000 bond, Wallace Weatherholt, 63, was released from Collier County Jail. He has an August 22 court date on the misdemeanor unlawful feeding charge.
“It’s a very sad situation for Mr. Weatherholt, and we wish this never happened to him, but there are laws on the books to protect people from this exact incident,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officer Jorge Pino said.