A group of tourists traveling with Captain Doug’s Everglades Tours got far more excitement than they bargained for earlier this week. The three women and two children set out for an afternoon excursion with airboat captain Wallace Weatherholt hoping to catch a glimpse of an alligator and ended up getting far closer to one of the creatures than they ever imagined.
Around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Weatherholt stopped the boat in a location where he knew an alligator lurked. He first coaxed the animal out of the water by holding a fish just above the surface, which the 9-foot reptile eagerly snapped out of his hand, before plunging back into the swamp. Moments later the beast resurfaced and attempted to leap onto the boat, nearly tipping it over in the process. Unsuccessful in its attempt to board the small craft, the gator slid back into the water as quickly as it had appeared.
At this point the passengers were thoroughly terrified from the encounter, but Weatherholt decided to take the experience just a bit further. The guide began patting the surface of the water in an attempt to bring the alligator back into view once again. Unfortunately for him the creature was just below the surface and struck very quickly, biting the guide’s hand completely off.
One of the passengers aboard the boat used her cellphone to call 911 and emergency response teams were on the scene very quickly. Members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also responded and they were able to track down the gator. After killing the animal, they were able to retrieve Weatherholt’s hand from its stomach. Doctors later failed in their attempts to reattach the appendage.
To make matters worse for the airboat captain, he now faces possible fines and jail time. In Florida it is illegal to feed alligators and by doing so, Weatherholt could potentially be sentenced to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
[Photo credit: Tomás Castelazo via WikiMedia]