In the last decade, trappers have captured and killed 240 alligators on Disney’s sprawling Central Florida property where a toddler was fatally attacked last week, state records show.
The gators ranged in size from just under 4 feet to a monstrous 13 feet in January 2015.
Compared to the number of alligators trapped statewide in the same period — more than 73,000 between 2006 and 2014 — the number bagged on the resort’s 25,000 acres represents just a fraction of a population estimated at over a million in Florida’s 67 counties. Despite the gators’ presence, Disney had no warning signs posted on the rolling acres dotted with ponds, wetlands and the large lagoon where 2-year-old Lane Graves was dragged from shore.
The Nebraska boy was on vacation with his family and wading along the lagoon’s sandy beach about 9 p.m. on June 14 when the gator grabbed him and dragged him into the lagoon after his father failed to pry the boy from the reptile’s grip.
Under a management plan registered with the state, Disney obtained a 10-year permit beginning in 2009 to trap up to 300 gators under 4 feet in length within a targeted area.
The map included in the permit shows the lagoon where the toddler was killed located at the north end of the resort’s property in a chain of lakes that includes Bay Lake and Mable Lake, tucked into two of the attraction’s golf courses.
Disney’s property is considered a targeted harvest area, where alligators are numerous enough to be trapped under one permit. Alligators in Florida are federally protected but managed under a state program that allows nuisance gators, typically larger than 4 feet, to be killed with a permit. Gators become more active in the spring and summer, their mating and nesting seasons. Mating season was just winding down when Lane was attacked.
Witnesses said the gator that attacked the boy measured between 4 and 7 feet, average for the gators trapped on the property. After the attack, trappers snared six alligators. While DNA and bite analyses were inconclusive, state officials say they feel certain they trapped the gator responsible for the attack based on location. Two of the gators measured more than 6 feet and could have carried out the attack, they said.