Disney 'Routinely' Removes Alligators from Beach Where 2-Year-Old Was Snatched, but Posted No Warning Signs, Officials Say
Florida officials say Disney resorts routinely remove alligators from the area where a 2-year-old boy was dragged into a lake on Tuesday.
The toddler was wading in about a foot of water around 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday when the alligator came out of the Seven Seas Lagoon at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa in Orlando and attacked.
Nick Wiley, executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, says that the resort has been “very proactive” in dealing with the alligators that are indigenous to the area.
“They have a full-time staff observing these waters and they have essentially an open permit system where any time they see an alligator or a complaint is called in, it can be taken out,” Wiley said at a press conference Wednesday, reports KETV.
“These alligators are not relocated, these alligators have to be euthanized because if you move them somewhere you’re just moving a problem,” he continued.
Wiley said that while the resort “routinely” removes alligators from the area, he could not recall of any such removals “recently.”
When asked about reports of another family with two young children who were reportedly chased by an alligator while watching a fireworks display near the same lagoon, Wiley said that the incident had gone unreported.
There are “no swimming” signs posted in the area where the boy was taken, however, there is no signage warning visitors about the presence of alligators, a Disney spokesperson confirmed to PEOPLE.
Authorities continue to search for the young boy, who is now presumed to be dead.
“At this point we’re 15 hours in and there were eye witnesses who saw the child taken under the water,” Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said. “It certainly is not survivable at this point for the boy to have been submerged for that time.”
Alligators regularly attack small prey at or near the water’s edge and in most cases they will not immediately swallow their prey but will instead hold it under water to drown it, Robert Reisz, a professor of biology at the University of Toronto, told CTV.
“It’s not unusual behavior for an alligator to pull things into the water,” Reisz said, adding that it’s not uncommon for dogs in Florida to be snatched by alligators. “This is normal predatory behavior, it just happens to be a child.”
Florida officials said Wednesday that they had already captured and euthanized five alligators near the scene of the attack.
Animal behaviorist Jim Nesci told CTV that because alligators are highly mobile, the gator who snatched the boy may have moved on from the area where the attack occurred.
Officials said they boy’s father wrestled with the alligator, estimated to be between 4 and 7 feet long, in an attempt to save the child but was unsuccessful. A search including dozens of law enforcement officials and rescue teams ensued.
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On Wednesday, Disney closed all beaches in its resort area “out of an abundance of caution,” a Disney confirmed to PEOPLE.
An employee at a neighboring resort told PEOPLE that guests and employees aren’t even allowed to go on the sand.
“This is a big deal. This isn’t like a ride malfunction and someone got hurt. This is tragic. Everyone’s freaked out about it,” the source says. “[The company] is going to train us all about what we should do when this type of thing happens.”
The source adds, “The beaches are closed. There is tape keeping people away from any of the lakes. They are taking this very seriously.”
• With reporting by STEVE HELLING AND ROSE MINUTAGLIO