The Miami Herald

Boat tour guide has more surgery after hand eaten by alligator

An airboat captain had another round of surgery Thursday, two days after his hand was bitten off by an alligator while he was giving a tour of the Everglades.

Doctors were initially unable to reattach his hand after wildlife officials killed the reptile and sliced it open to retrieve the severed body part.

Wallace “Captain Wally” Weatherholt, 63, was taken to a nearby hospital in Naples before being transferred to Tampa General where he is reportedly in good spirits, according to a statement from Captain Doug’s Tours, the Everglades City company where he was a guide. The family requested “privacy,” the statement said, and no other information was released.

When Florida Fish and Wildlife officers reached the airboat in Everglades City on Tuesday afternoon, witnesses helped point out the nine-foot alligator, which was captured and killed. Authorities slit open the reptile and found Weatherholt’s hand in surprisingly good condition.

Weatherholt or someone else in the boat may have been trying to feed the alligator, which is illegal. A spokesman with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said that there are no charges filed, although the agency is still “investigating the details.”

Fish and Wildlife issued 13 citations and six warnings last year for feeding alligators. Only two people were bitten last year and three in 2010.

Animal activist Russ Rector said that feeding wild animals is an “epidemic” in South Florida.

“When you feed an animal a couple times, now that animal is humanized,” he said. “It shortens its lifespan because it is not afraid of people anymore and it gets in accidents or gets killed for being a nuisance.”

Captain Doug’s is opening an account for donations for Weatherholt. Go to CaptainDougs.net for details.




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