Two months before an alligator killed a toddler at Walt Disney World, firefighters were warned to stop feeding the reptiles at one of the resort’s fire stations.
The admonitions were in emails from employees at Reedy Creek Emergency Services. Reedy Creek is the Disney-controlled taxing district that provides government services to the theme parks and surrounding areas.
The emails were obtained through a public-records request made after an alligator snatched 2-year-old Lane Graves from the shore of the Seven Seas Lagoon on June 14 and drowned him while he was on vacation with family from Nebraska. The attack took place at Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
After that, many tourists came forward with their own stories of alligator sightings at Disney. One employee at the resort said at the time there was a problem with guests feeding the animals.
According to the emails, firefighters were feeding at least one of two alligators hanging around Fire Station 3, located off Floridian Way on Maple Road less than a half-mile from Seven Seas Lagoon and less than a mile from Grand Floridian. One gator was a baby. The second was estimated to be between 4 and 5 feet long.
Reedy Creek District Administrator John Classe said he believes the feedings were not widespread throughout the resort.
Feeding alligators is illegal because it causes the animals to lose their natural fear of humans.
“You would think that the firefighters would be a little bit more in tune with the trouble that could cause and not do it,” said David Hitzig, executive director of the Busch Wildlife Center, a refuge and nature center in Jupiter. “You would figure they would have more common sense than that. … When you feed an alligator, you’re attracting it to people.”
On April 20, communications captain Claude Rogers sent an email to Reedy Creek’s fire command staff.
“It was brought to our attention firefighters are feeding the alligators (this is illegal),” Rogers’ email said. “The communicators have found (one alligator) 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.”
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SOURCE: Orlando Sentinel, Sandra Pedicini