- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 14, 2016

Firefighters located less than a half mile from the Walt Disney World lagoon where an alligator killed 2-year-old Lane Graves were reportedly instructed just two months before the toddler’s death to stop illegally feeding the dangerous reptiles.

Firefighters were feeding at least one of two alligators living near Fire Station 3, located less than a half-mile from Seven Seas Lagoon and less than a mile from the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, where the June 14 attack took place, according to emails obtained through a public-records request by The Orlando Sentinel.

The “feeding or enticement” of alligators is illegal in the state.

Warnings against feeding the animals were in emails from employees at Reedy Creek Emergency Services, the body that provides government services to Disney World, The Sentinel reported.

“It was brought to our attention firefighters are feeding the alligators (this is illegal),” communications captain Claude Rogers reportedly wrote in an email to Reedy Creek’s fire command staff on April 20. “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.”

Mr. Rogers sent a second email 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.”

Mr. Rogers had been notified of the issue a few days earlier in an email from Reedy Creek dispatcher Dan Lewis, The Sentinel reported.

“Could yall tell the ops side to stop feeding these alligators, we think we have 2,” Mr. Lewis reportedly wrote. “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.”

Reedy Creek District Administrator John Classe told The Sentinel that Disney’s animal-control department was contacted, but he did not know whether the gators — one baby and one over four feet — were ever removed. He said the firefighters received “just a talking to and reminding — ‘Guys and gals, we know this isn’t right, so just don’t.’”

A Disney spokeswoman also did not know whether the gators had been removed, The Sentinel reported.

Nuisance gators under 4 feet are typically relocated, but larger ones are trapped and killed by the state. The alligator that attacked Lane was estimated to be between 4 and 7 feet, The Sentinel reported.

“You would think that the firefighters would be a little bit more in tune with the trouble that could cause and not do it,” David Hitzig, executive director of the Busch Wildlife Center, told The Sentinel. “You would figure they would have more common sense than that. … When you feed an alligator, you’re attracting it to people.”

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