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Disney firefighters were told to stop feeding alligators months before a toddler was snatched

AP Photo/Jay Reeves
Alligators, when fed, may learn to associate people with food.
By Ashley Rodriguez
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Firefighters at one of Walt Disney World’s fire stations were reportedly told to stop feeding alligators there roughly two months before an alligator killed a 2-year-old boy near the Florida resort.

The boy, Lane Graves, was playing by the shore of the Seven Seas Lagoon at the Disney Grand Floridian Resort and Spa in Orlando when an alligator pulled him into the water on June 14. He was found dead the following afternoon.

According to emails obtained by the Orlando Sun Sentinel, local firefighters from a fire house run by Reedy Creek Emergency Services had been feeding at least one of two alligators nearby, earlier in the year. On April 20, Reedy Creek communications captain Claude Rogers reportedly emailed the fire station, warning the staff to stop feeding the alligators, which he said is illegal in the state of Florida.

Alligators acclimate to being around people when they are fed, and learn to associate people with food, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says.

Reedy Creek also reportedly told Disney’s animal control about the incident and asked them to remove the gators—one baby, and one that was estimated to be about 4 or 5 feet long—but did not know whether the animals were removed.

Reedy Creek is a public agency that provides government services including fire and rescue and emergency medical services in the taxing district of Reedy Creek, where Walt Disney World is located. The Disney-owned entity owns most of the land there and is the largest taxpayer.

The tragedy has cast a shadow over Disney’s largest and most popular theme park and resort during the busy summer US travel season. Disney’s parks and resort business, which includes properties around the world, accounted for roughly $16 billion, or 30% of Disney’s overall revenue during fiscal year 2015. The company is expected to report its third quarter 2016 earnings in August.

As for the firefighters, they reportedly received a “talking to,” and were reminded not to feed the animals.

Disney and Reedy Creek’s district administrator’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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