Just two months before 2-year-old Lane Graves was snatched from a foot of water by an alligator and drowned at Disney World’s Grand Floridian resort, onsite firefighters were warned to stop feeding gators that wandered around Fire Station 3. The Station is located just a half-mile from Disney’s Seven Seas Lagoon, the area where the vacationing toddler was killed.
According to emails obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, on April 20, communications captain Claude Rogers wrote to Reedy Creek’s fire command staff, asking that command officials admonish their firefighters for feeding local gators, and asking that they stop, as feeding predatory animals like gators tends to lead to the animals losing their natural fear of humans.
“It was brought to our attention firefighters are feeding the alligators (this is illegal). The communicators have found [one gator] by the station, near the dumpster, and where they park their cars. As you can imagine this is making the communicators nervous because they are fearful of walking to their car and their leg becoming dinner. We have notified Animal Control to remove the alligator. In the interim could you ask your crews to stop feeding the gator.”
Reedy Creek District Administrator John Classe said that he believes firefighters feeding the gators is an isolated incident happening only at Fire Station 3, and it is not something that is widespread through the Disney World resort. He also said that he doesn’t believe either of the gators spotted around the fire station could have been the one that attacked Lane Graves, because though the station is a mere half-mile from the Lagoon where the toddler was killed, there are no connecting waterways nearby, meaning “the gator would have to travel across a couple roadways … to get over to the Seven Seas water body system, so it’s not likely.”
The gators that the firefighters were feeding are believed to live in a retention pond behind the fire station.
Sometime in the week prior to Rogers’ email, Reedy Creek dispatcher Dan Lewis sent an email to Rogers and another official, alerting them to the situation with the gators, and asking that he remind firefighters that feeding the gators is not only illegal, it’s dangerous as well.
“Could yall tell the ops side to stop feeding these alligators, we think we have 2. They are coming out in the parking lot much more than others in the past and WE are the ones who have to walk in that parking lot every day and in the dark. They are not docile gators, they are mean and they are out looking for food because people are feeding them. It’s getting uncomfortable.”
According to People, one of the gators spotted near the fire station was between four and five-feet long. The second alligator appeared to be a baby. Disney World has a policy of relocating gators that are under four-feet-long, while those longer than four feet tend to be caught and killed. Though Rogers’ email states that Animal Control had been called in to deal with the gators, no statement has yet been released on whether the gators have, in fact, been caught.
The fact that it was firefighters feeding the gators has led to some questioning what led them to believe doing so was ok, because, according to David Hitzig, executive director of the Busch Wildlife Center, “You would think that the firefighters would be a little bit more in tune with the trouble that could cause and not do it… You would figure they would have more common sense than that.”
Despite repeated attempts by media outlets, officials at Disney World have not yet commented on the news that their own firefighters had been feeding gators onsite, just two months before the tragic death of Lane Graves.
[AP Photo/John Raoux]