LAKE BUENA VISTA — The state has closed its investigation into an attack by an alligator on a toddler, after noting that wildlife officials had captured and euthanized the alligator responsible for the killing.
The state’s top wildlife and conservation agency also sent out a message to Florida residents and its many visitors – but it was not a warning to be on the lookout for gator attacks.
Instead, the state noted simply, “Alligator attacks are a very rare occurrence in Florida,” and that a program is in place to protect people in the Orlando area.
On Wednesday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced it had suspended alligator trapping activities in the area where 2-year-old Lane Graves was killed.
The toddler and his family had been visiting Walt Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and were at the beach by the Seven Seas Lagoon when Lane was attacked by an alligator and dragged into the water.
Lane’s body was found the next day, after an extensive search, and he is believed to have died from drowning. Disney had posted “No-swimming” signs on the lagoon’s beach, although there were no signs posted warning of possible alligator attacks.
FWC conducted an investigation at Seven Seas Lagoon, which is man-made, and on Wednesday announced that the agency was “confident that the alligator responsible for the attack has been removed. This conclusion is based on expert analyses and observations by staff with extensive experience in investigating fatal alligator bite incidents.” Disney also reopened its beaches to the public.
FWC noted it had conducted an “intense round-the-clock monitoring and trapping efforts” following the attack on the boy, until they could positively identify the alligator involved in the attack, or find other alligators that fit the description — and removed them from the lake.
During the investigation, FWC noted, their trappers humanely removed six alligators from the area, and since June 16, no additional alligators have been observed there. Two of the animals captured had been found in close proximity to the area where the attack occurred.
Nick Wiley, executive director of the FWC, also reached out to Lane’s family, issuing a statement noting that “There are no words to describe the profound sadness we feel for the family of Lane Graves. We will continue to keep this family close to our hearts as they deal with the pain and grief of the loss of Lane.”
Walt Disney World also issued a statement expressing support for the family. Walt Disney World’s president, George A. Kalogridis, said in a statement “There are no words to convey the profound sorrow we feel for the family and their unimaginable loss. We are devastated and heartbroken by this tragic accident and are doing what we can to help them during this difficult time. On behalf of everyone at Disney, we offer them our deepest sympathy.”
FWC also noted that Seven Seas Lagoon is unlikely to become a body of water that continues to attract alligators in the future.
“This area is poor alligator habitat that will not support a large population of adult alligators,” the agency noted. “FWC subject matter experts are very confident that, based on the totality of the evidence, the alligator responsible for the attack has been removed.”
The agency also noted that alligator attacks of this nature are very rare.
“FWC works diligently to keep Floridians and our visitors safe and informed on what to do if they spot a potentially dangerous alligator,” the agency noted, while pointing out that residents and visitors alike could contact the Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program if they have concerns, by calling their Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286).
The SNAP program employs nuisance alligator trappers across the state who are called in to remove alligators believed to be posing a threat to people, pets or property.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..