Firefighters had been feeding at least one alligator less than half a mile from the Disney World lagoon where 2-year-old Lane Graves was snatched and killed last month, according to newly released emails.
Supervisors at Reedy Creek Emergency Services, which serves Disney World and nearby communities, sent emails in April warning employees to stop feeding the reptiles because it is both illegal and could make them lose their fear of humans, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
“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,” communications captain Claude Rogers wrote in an April email obtained by the newspaper. “We have notified Animal Control to remove the alligator. In the interim could you ask your crews to stop feeding the gator.”
Emails reveal there were at least two alligators spotted near – including on 4 to 5 feet long. The other was believed to be a small juvenile.
Disney World did not immediately respond to requests for comment from PEOPLE.
Reedy Creek District Administrator John Classe told the Sentinel that he believes the feedings were isolated to the station.
“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.”
Following the toddler’s death, Disney also installed new warning signs and barriers around the area, as the only sign at the time of the incident told guests no swimming was permitted in the Seven Seas Lagoon, in which Matt Graves, Lane’s father, said he and his son were playing in about a foot of water.
The new signage features a red caution sign, warning guests to “stay away from the water” and “do not feed the wildlife,” along with a photo of an alligator and snakes, above which are the words “alligators and snakes in area.”