By Kelly Crestwell
Everglades City, FL (WBBH/CNN) - Investigators now say a man whose hand was bitten off by an alligator may have provoked the reptile.
The incident happened Tuesday while Wallace Weatherholt was taking a group on an airboat tour in the Florida Everglades.
Tourists saw a little more than they bargained for on an airboat tour ride Tuesday afternoon.
An FWC spokesperson says Wallace Weatherholt put six other people's lives in danger when an alligator bit off his left hand.
FWC says based on witness accounts, there is some speculation that Weatherholt may have been illegally feeding the nine foot gator.
"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 make more money," said Jorge Pino, a Florida Fish and Wildlife spokesperson.
But Weatherholt paid a price: his left hand. While he was taken to the hospital, FWC worked with witnesses to find a gator.
FWC crews had no other choice but to euthanize it on the spot, dissect it, and discover Weatherholt's hand still inside its stomach.
"If an alligator is more than four feet and shows signs of aggression toward a human or a pet and you make a phone call to our hotline, then we will go, remove that alligator and that alligator will be euthanized," said Pino.
This isn't the first time Captain Doug's Everglades Tour has been investigated for allegedly feeding gators.
FWC says this unfortunate incident reminds us why it is illegal to touch, harass, or feed alligators.
"The human being is the smart one. We have to make the right decision. If we're going to be feeding an alligator or if we're going to be taunting an alligator the likelihood that you will get in trouble and you will get bitten is pretty high," said Pino.
Weatherholt's doctors say they plan to try to reattach his hand.