Wildlife authorities investigate skipper for feeding alligator before attack

A boat captain is recovering in hospital after his hand was bitten off by an alligator during a tourist trip around the Everglades swamp in Florida, USA.

Wallace “Wally” Weatherholt was leading a family tour on Tuesday (12 June) when the 9ft alligator jumped out of the water and latched onto his left hand, severing it and swallowing it whole.

A rival airboat operator drove the injured man back to land where they called 911 for assistance.

Wildlife officials raced after the animal, killed it and retrieved the hand from its stomach and took it to the hospital but doctors were unable to reattach it. Weatherholt is said to be stable and in good spirits according to a report on ABC Action News.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are investigating whether Weatherholt was feeding or otherwise baiting the animal before the attack, which is a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida.

Jorge Pino, an officer with FWCC, said that it was common for swamp skippers to take unnecessary risks with dangerous animals.

“The more flamboyant you are, the more aggressive you are in getting an alligator to come close to the boat, the more tips you’re going to end up getting. So they’re doing it because they think it’s the right thing to do to get more money,” he said.

Weatherholt’s employers, Capt. Doug’s Everglades Tours, are planning to hold a fundraiser to help the injured man and his family.