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Florida airboat captain who lost hand to gator charged with unlawful feeding

9:32 AM, Jul 30, 2012   |    comments
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A Florida airboat captain who lost his hand to a 9-foot alligator last month now faces charges of unlawful feeding of a gator.

Wallace Weatherholt, 63, was arrested and charged with the misdemeanor Friday, the Fort Myers News-Press reported. The Everglades City airboat captain posted a $1,000 bond and is set to appear in court Aug. 22.

According to the News-Press, Weatherholt was leading a family on a tour of the Everglades on June 12 when the alligator bit his hand off at the wrist.

The family on the tour said Weatherholt hung a fish over the side of the boat, The Associated Press reported, and had his hand just above the water when the alligator attacked.

"I was kind of freaked out about that because that's kind of weird," Everglades City resident Sarah Goff told NBC affiliate WBBH at the time. "You don't feed them. They can get used to that and get aggressive."

The gator was captured and killed after the attack so the man's hand could be retrieved from the animal's stomach, Florida Fish and Wildlife officers told WBBH. The hand was found, but it could not be reattached.

Feeding gators is illegal, and those who feed an alligator face a second-degree misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $500 and possible jail time, the News-Press reported.

David Weathers, an alligator trapper and owner of several alligators, told the News-Press gators have a natural fear of humans, but once they are fed by humans, they lose that fear.

"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," Weathers told the newspaper.


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