Gator Bites Off Air Boat Captain’s Hand

By  //  June 15, 2012

Florida News

(Video by EpicWildlife)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Alligators are ubiquitous in the Sunshine State, as are the warning signs NOT TO FEED THE GATORS.  So, what must be going through the mind of  Wallace “Wally” Weatherholt, the ill-fated air-boat captain and tour guide employed by Doug’s Everglades Tours out of Everglades City, who apparently routinely fed the gators marshmallows so that clients, as touted on the company website, could, “See the real Everglades on a small airboat that your whole family will enjoy.”

Captain Weatherholt’s air-boat was carrying six tourists late on Tuesday when an alligator pounced, taking the sweets from the captain’s fingers and, disastrously chomping off his hand.

Medical science has evolved such that miraculous surgical reattachments of digits and limbs are certainly possible.  However, after tracking down and killing the gator and extracting the intact hand from its stomach, the mangled and partially digested condition of the hand prevented any chance of a successful reattachment by surgeons at Tampa General.

There are several lessons to be learned here.  It seems that, although the victim, the unfortunate captain faces the possibility of a $500 fine or six months in prison for feeding alligators, a felony offense in Florida.

The excerpt below and full story by Tampa Bay Times staff writer Ben Montgomery provides more detail related to the attack.

TAMPA BAY TIMES–The American alligator snaps its jaws shut with a force of 2,125 pounds, roughly equivalent to the pressure it would take to lift a midsized family sedan. It has somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 jagged teeth, and when it plunges them into prey like a small deer or Florida panther, it commences spinning and convulsing wildly to rip off bite-sized chunks.

The American alligator is ubiquitous in Florida wetlands. Heed the signs: DO NOT FEED THE ALLIGATORS.

Still, in the dark waters of Florida, some tempt the ancient reptiles. Men toss them fish and marshmallows and name them after dead governors. And once in a while, we are all reminded of the gravitas of nature.

Such was the case when a woman phoned 911 Tuesday from Captain Doug’s Everglades Tours in Everglades City.

“Oh, Jesus Christ, it’s my boat captain,” the woman said. “Oh Jesus Lord Christ, it looks like he’s lost his hand.”

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