'Gator Whisperer' Charged With Harassing Reptiles

Man charged after posting YouTube videos of alligator encounters

November 8, 2014, 4:07 PM

— -- A self-described "Gator Whisperer" is facing the bite of law enforcement, accused of getting a little too close to the dangerous reptiles.

Hal Kreitman, 51, is facing multiple charges after posting videos of himself spending time with a few Florida alligators. In videos posted online, Kreitman is seen calmly interacting with the alligators by petting them, rubbing their chin and even giving one animal a kiss on the nose.

Kreitman, a former chiropractor, was arrested after Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials discovered the videos online.

After discovering the videos, undercover wildlife officials reported seeing Kreitman lead guests into the Everglades to interact with the dangerous reptiles up-close.

Kreitman faces a felony charge, for allegedly enticing and illegally capturing an alligator. He has pleaded not guilty and was released on $2,500 bail.

But Kreitman was already in legal trouble before he stepped into the swamp. The so-called "alligator whisperer" was recently convicted on multiple counts of fraud, including mail fraud and money laundering, and was sentenced to eight years in prison, according to court records.

Kreitman is appealing the charges, according to court records, but had been ordered to report for his sentence in January 2015.

Police said that in addition to getting close to the animals, Kreitman started charging tourists $250 to come along and see him interact with the giant reptiles.

He told ABC News that his visits to the Everglades are purely free of charge.

"What is wrong with bringing people out to get the best shots they're evergoing to get?" Kreitman said. "That's called a safari."

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Kreitman's actions can be dangerous for the animal as well as the person.

"Interacting with them in this manner in the wild is considered harassment of a protected species, and it is illegal under Florida Statute," the commission said in a statement on its Facebook page.

Florida residents and visitors are warned to avoid feeding and being near alligators, since they can lose their fear of people or start to associate food with people. In those cases the animals are removed and killed to protect the general public.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events