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. St. Petersburg council sets millage rate in first budget hearing

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council set the millage rate and gave initial approval to Mayor Rick Kriseman's $538 million budget at Thursday night's hearing.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman talks about the state of the city on Tuesday, two days after Hiurricane Irma passed through the state. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  2. How many more people would lack coverage under Cassidy-Graham? We can guess

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — It's safe to say the new Obamacare rollback measure toward which the Senate is charging would mean fewer Americans have health coverage. Exactly how many is unclear. Some argue it could be more than 22 million people. Others say it could be fewer.

  3. Woman's decomposed body found near St. Petersburg railroad tracks

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — A woman's body was found near the railway tracks behind an empty building at 3100 38th Ave. N, according to St. Petersburg police.

  4. Warehouse filled with mattresses burns on Tampa's east side

    News

    TAMPA — County and city firefighters were on the scene of a three-alarm fire Thursday night at a warehouse that appeared to contain thousands of mattresses.

    Thursday night's fire at a mattress warehouse in Tampa, as seen from a drone. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]
  5. 'Dream big' drives Lightning's Conacher brothers

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — Two words: Dream big.

    Cory Conacher includes them every time he signs an autograph for a young hockey fan.

    Tampa Bay Lightning forward Cory Conacher (89) on the ice during Lightning training camp in Brandon Friday morning (09/15/17).