Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tour boat captain whose hand was bitten off by gator in Tampa for reattachment surgery

The Everglades airboat tour started like most. Revved engines, six windswept tourists and an hourlong trek through the saw grass.

But it didn't end like others.

The tour guide's left hand was bitten off by a 9-foot alligator, which authorities then found, killed and slit open just outside of the national park in southwest Florida.

Inside the beast's belly: Wallace "Captain Wally" Weatherholt's severed hand.

Weatherholt, 63, and his hand were taken to a nearby hospital in Naples, where doctors were pleased with the body part's condition. From there, the Naples native was transferred to Tampa General, where a medical team is attempting to reattach it.

Glenn Smith, manager at Captain Doug's Small Airboat Tours in Everglades City, said his tour guide was "in good spirits."

"The business does whatever it can to help Wally," he said. "It's an unfortunate incident."

As soon as the emergency call came in at 3:47 p.m. Tuesday, Florida Fish and Wildlife officers rushed to help, spokeswoman Carli Segelson said. Witnesses helped point out the gator. It wasn't long before the reptile was captured.

Wildlife officials suspect the animal attacked because it had been fed by the tour guide or someone else. An investigation was underway.

"It's dangerous and illegal to feed an alligator," Segelson said. "When alligators are fed, they overcome a natural fear of humans and they can learn to associate people as food."

Tampa General Hospital did not provide details on Weatherholt's condition.

Alligators — which live in swamps, lakes, rivers and wetlands — are found in all 67 Florida counties. Since 1948, there has been an average of five unprovoked bites a year across the state.

Gators like to swallow some meals whole. Biologists say their teeth, as menacing as they look, just aren't made for chewing.

Tour boat captain whose hand was bitten off by gator in Tampa for reattachment surgery 06/13/12 [Last modified: Friday, June 15, 2012 8:53am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Florida education news: jobs, desegregation, lawsuits and more

    Blogs

    RESOURCES: A job created last year to coach and mentor first-year teachers in struggling schools, which was funded by the Pinellas County school district and the teacher's union, is being …

    Third-grade teacher Rachel Lachiusa, 23, left, gets help from Kali Davis, whose job it was to mentor first-year teachers in St. Petersburg.
  2. Jack Latvala can win

    Blogs

    From today's column:

    Latavla
  3. Forecast: Isolated showers to start along the coast before pushing inland

    Weather

    Tampa Bay residents can expect isolated showers mainly along the coast this morning before they push inland this afternoon.

    Tampa Bay's 7-day forecast [WTSP]
  4. Rick Scott for President?

    Blogs

    Reubin Askew tried. So did Bob Graham. And Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. When you've shown an ability to win statewide elections in America's biggest swing state, you're almost automatically a credible contender for president.

    Rick Scott
  5. The next step in a sex abuse survivor's recovery: Erasing her tattoo

    Health

    TAMPA — Even after 20 years, Sufiyah can't escape the memories of being sexually exploited by gang members as a teenager.

    The tattoo makes it impossible.

    Sufiyah, an aAbuse survivor, prepares to have a tattoo removed  at Tampa Tattoo Vanish  on Thursday. During her teen years, she was sexually exploited by a gang. The tattoo is a mark of her exploiters. 

Tampa Tattoo Vanish is a new tattoo removal business run by Brian Morrison, where survivors of human trafficking get free tattoo removal.  [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times