Tag Archives: everglades

Has FWC Been Lying to US About Alligator Harassment Laws?

  • The Haligator, Hal Kreitman, the Alligator Whisperer, arrested
  • FWC is misrepresenting the law regarding alligator harassment
  • The Alligator Whisperer should not be facing a felony
Alligator Warning Sign

Alligator Warning Sign

FWC, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Comission, has been telling everyone for years that it is illegal to harass alligators, Florida’s official state reptile. Signs like the one on the left warn people against feeding or molesting (which means to bother them, not in a sexual context). So it came as no surprise a week or so ago when FWC arrested Hal Kreitman, the “Haligator”, the self-proclaimed ‘Alligator Whistperer’ for “harassment of a protected species” according to their press release on Facebook. However, after a review of the laws related to Alligator protection; I’m not sure that FWC is right about the charges they have leveled.

Hal "Haligator" Kreitman, courtesy FWC

Hal “Haligator” Kreitman, courtesy FWC

Who is the Alligator Whisperer? According to a profile by Kyle Swenson of the new times, “Florida’s Best Alligator Whisperer is a Sex-Partying, Bodybuilding Felonious Chiropractor.” Having been convicted of multiple counts of fraud related to an insurance-fraud scheme at the chiropractor’s office where he worked, Mr. Kreitman was in a low place when he ventured out into the Everglades and decided to get close to alligators. He started interacting with them, and then began advertising an “Alligator Experience“, where he would take tourists out into the Everglades for an exceptionally close encounter with wildlife. Unfortunately for him, the ads and media coverage caught FWC’s attention, and he was arrested after an undercover operation, as documented by the local CBS affiliate.

Kreitman has been charged, among other things, with a felony, under the statute prohibiting “Illegal killing, possessing, or capturing of alligators…” Here’s the problem… he did not kill, injure, possess, or capture any alligators, nor attempt to do so. FWC thinks that “harrasing” alligators is a crime, but it’s not according to the statutes. FWC claims in its “case of the week” press release that interacting with alligators “in this manner in the wild is considered harassment of a protected species, and it is illegal under Florida Statute.” Except, it’s not. The law does not say what FWC claims it says. The statute is written to prevent poaching of alligators, at no point does it say anything about the “harassment” of alligators. The FWC wants the law to read how they interpret it, but the plain language does not prohibit interacting with alligators, and the State has improperly charged Mr, Kreitman with a felony. The FWC is wrong, and they have been misleading us the whole time.

There is a separate law against feeding alligators, or enticing them with food. So far I haven’t read any news reports that indicate that anyone saw the alligators being fed. Reports indicate that a quantity of raw meat was found in Mr. Kreitman’s vehicle, though Mr. Kreitman has indicated on his Alligator Experience Facebook page that there was no warrant when the vehicle was searched. Another violation of Mr. Kreitman’s rights by FWC, who apparently is not that up to speed on either the alligator statutes or the Constitution. The feeding alligator charge is only a second degree misdemeanor, the lowest level of criminal offense… much less serious than a felony.

Haligator in Action, via his Facebook page

Haligator in Action, via his Facebook page

Mr. Kreitman has apparently responded on his Facebook page, “if there’s anybody that thinks I did anything wrong legally or not please express your opinion. FWC keep your dukes up because we’re going to have a fight and you’re going to lose you drummed upl malicious charges. intent to kill capture or possess an alligator and or its eggs you have nothing to charge me laugh but make up one charge give me an ROR on that and laughed at it too..you don’t realize I’m doing good out there but I can’t wait to see you in court so I know you’re reading this I love how you said you had an intense sting operation I was expecting you you didn’t think I knew that girl that called me wasn’t one of you.”

The government has sought to revoke Mr. Kreitman’s bond based on the charges, but according to his attorney, Ed Salantrie, the judge has not revoked it at this time. Kreitman also spoke to Sky News, and denied doing anything wrong. Even Good Morning America has gotten in on the story. After reading the felony statute, and not the FWC ‘company line’ claim that harassment is a crime, I have to disagree with FWC. The felony charge appears to be wrongly filed.

For more info:

  • check out the original bio: http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/riptide/2014/10/hal_kreitman_is_having_a.php
  • Definitely read and watch the CBS story: http://miami.cbslocal.com/2014/10/31/journey-into-the-everglades-with-the-alligator-whisperer/
  • And Mr. Kreitman, the Haligator, has been updating responses on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gatorexpierence
  • The FWC has resources, but check out the actual alligator statutes, which FWC has conveniently compiled here: http://myfwc.com/media/1531908/alligator_rules_booklet.pdf

Now, even though the law may not prohibit interacting with alligators, it is still a bad idea. When alligators lose their fear of humans, they are more likely to approach, and become more dangerous. The next person who comes along could be more likely to be attacked, it might be some kid, and the alligator could end up being destroyed. Also, alligators are dangerous and you could lose a body part, or as they say on Gator Boys, you “could be consumed (consumed means eaten.)” Please enjoy our wildlife at a distance.

Guide arrested for feeding an alligator… his hand

wallace weatherholt mug shot

Wallace Weatherholt

Collier County tour guide/airboat captain Wallace Weatherholt was arrested for feeding an alligator, dating back to an incident a few weeks ago where his hand was bitten off by the gator.  I previously mentioned alligator attacks on this blog, due to the criminal ramifications of molesting an alligator.  Presumably the charges stem from the fact that witnesses indicated he was baiting the alligator with food, which led to the attack.  As I stated previously, one of the reasons these statutes are on the books are to protect the animals.  This gator was captured and destroyed after this incident.  Also, these statutes protect people from gators taking important body parts.

However, something surprised me on this case.  Normally people cannot be arrested for misdemeanors that do not occur in the presence of an officer.  A review of the court file indicates that a Capias was issued, which is essentially a warrant.  This explains why he was arrested, but I have concerns that a capias rather than a summons was issued.  The distinction is important for Mr. Weatherholt, as a summons would have given him a court date, rather than his being arrested, locked up and having to post bond.  It costs money to arrest someone and book them, especially if they have to be transported all the way from Everglades City to the jail in Naples, and it’s probably not appropriate on misdemeanors (this charge is merely a second degree misdemeanor). 

Additionally, Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure require that a summons be issued in lieu of a warrant if the charge is a misdemeanor, Fla. Rule Crim. P. Rule 3.131(k).  There are certain exceptions, but none of those seem to apply here.  If so, Mr. Weatherholt was illegally arrested at the expense of Collier County taxpayers.  This doesn’t mean he doesn’t have to face the charges for feeding the alligator- but he’s probably not facing jail time for them absent a prior record.  It does mean that county resources were improperly expended.