Anyone who lives in the proximity of wild critters know that animals can quickly lose their fears of human encounters.
But it’s exactly that fear that keeps both humans and animals safe from each other.
Just released correspondence from Florida show that firefighters in Orlando’s Walt Disney World were warned to stop feeding alligators on the property.
2-year-old Lane Graves drowned by alligator
Last month, in an event that horrified people around the world, a two-year-old Nebraska boy was snatched by an alligator at Walt Disney World and drowned.
Lane Graves was with his family and wading at the shore of the Seven Seas Lagoon on June 14 when he was grabbed by an alligator swimming around the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
According to 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 in the Sun-Sentinel “You would figure they would have more common sense than that. … When you feed an alligator, you’re attracting it to people.”
Feeding alligators illegal
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.”
A Disney spokeswoman did not know Wednesday afternoon whether the gator had been removed.
Typically nuisance gators under 4 feet are relocated. Larger ones are trapped and killed by the state. The alligator that attacked Lane was estimated to be between 4 and 7 feet.
After Rogers’ initial email, he sent another one to Reedy Creek communications employees.
“Several people have expressed concern of becoming alligator food because the alligator is seen out of the pond near the building, by the dumpster, and near the cars,” he wrote. “The firefighters feeding the alligator only aggravates the situation….. Animal Control has been notified and I have spoken to B/C Brown requesting they tell the firefighters to stop feeding the alligator. He has already spoken to members of his crew and has passed this on to the other shifts.”
Reached by phone Wednesday, Rogers told the Orlando Sentinel he could not remember who pointed out that firefighters were feeding alligators.
“Someone told me, I think,” he said. “I don’t remember specifics as to who or what. Obviously it was by word of mouth.”
Firefighters warned alligators not “docile”
A few days before Rogers’ emails, Reedy Creek dispatcher Dan Lewis alerted Rogers and another official about a problem with the gators.
“Could yall tell the ops side to stop feeding these alligators, we think we have 2,” Lewis wrote in an email. “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”
There is a pond behind the fire station that does not appear connected to other waterways, according to the Orlando Sentinel