Deadly Gator Attack at Disney Raises Questions About Warning Signs

ABC News(ORLANDO, Fla.) --  The death of a 2-year-old Nebraska boy who was snatched by an alligator at Walt Disney World has raised questions about why there were no warning signs about the reptiles at the lagoon where the attack occurred.

The gator grabbed the toddler, identified by authorities as Lane Graves, at the Seven Seas Lagoon, a man-made lake that abuts several Disney resorts, around 9:15 p.m. Tuesday. There are "No Swimming" signs posted in the area, but no gator warnings. No one was in the water at the time, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

The child’s body was found by divers Wednesday afternoon about 10 to 15 yards from shore. His family, who were guests at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, “asked for privacy as they grieve the loss of their son,” the sheriff’s office said.

 Florida is home to more than a million gators, but only a dozen or so bites are recorded each year, according to statistics from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Fatal alligator attacks like this one are rare.

According to Jacquee Wahler, vice president of Walt Disney World Resort, “All of our beaches are currently closed, and we are conducting a swift and thorough review of all of our processes and protocols. This includes the number, placement and wording of our signage and warnings.”

"Everyone in southern Florida knows not to walk their dogs by a body of water without a leash, especially at night. The dog will get eaten," University of Florida Law School professor Lyrissa Lidsky told ABC News.

But some say that's not necessarily the case for out-of-town visitors who are unaware of the dangers alligators pose.

Disney said it has a permit that allows officials to legally capture any alligator that’s deemed a nuisance, or is at least 4-feet long and poses a threat to people, pets or property. Gators that are 4-feet long or under are caught and released at Disney’s Conservation Area, the company said.

A technician from the company’s pest management team is automatically dispatched within 15 minutes after guests report an alligator sighting to a Disney cast member. According to Disney, the technician checks the area for any roaming gators. If one is found on land, the technician will try coaxing the reptile back into the water if possible before determining whether the gator needs to be captured.

Almost a third of Walt Disney World property is set aside as a conservation area, which attracts a variety of native wildlife including American alligators, according to Disney.

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