Since a little boy was dragged to his death by an alligator at Disney’s Grand Floridian in Orlando, people have been looking for answers. The answer to the question, “How could this happen?” is almost certainly, “It’s Florida and alligators live there,” but people keep digging. Now they’ve unearthed some very damning emails from the theme park’s fire department.
Reedy Creek Emergency Services is part of the Disney-controlled taxing district, and they’re responsible for the park and surrounding areas. The Orlando Sentinel reports that a public records request of fire department emails was made after 2-year-old Lane Graves was grabbed on the shore of Seven Seas Lagoon in June. In April, communications captain Claude Rogers was warning his staff not to feed the giant reptiles:
“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 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”
It is definitely illegal to feed gators, but in a way, this story paints a picture of a place where gators are so common that you’re chill with leaving treats out for them like they’re feral cats.
The feedings were happening at Fire Station 3 on Maple Road, about half a mile from Seven Seas Lagoon. The firefighters’ gators were almost certainly unrelated to one that drowned Lane Graves, because it’s hard for a gator to cross the roadways. Also, why would you go chasing kids when you’re being fed by hand?
Image via Getty.