Disney beaches reopen; state believes it caught killer gator
Walt Disney World reopened its beaches to guests Thursday, a source at the Florida theme park with knowledge of the situation told CNN.
The move comes more than a week after an alligator snatched a boy, Lane Graves, from a beach behind the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, killing him.
The beaches will open one hour after sunrise and will close an hour before sunset, the source said. (The alligator attacked the Nebraska 2-year-old shortly after 9 p.m. on June 14.)
Beaches also will include signs and temporary barriers “to further promote safety at our resort and we continue to work on permanent, long-term solutions,” the source said.
Gators in lagoon monitored after attack
On Tuesday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced it was no longer hunting alligators in the Seven Seas Lagoon where the child was killed.
“The FWC is confident that the alligator responsible for the attack has been removed,” the commission said in a statement. “The conclusion took into account the proximity to the attack site of removed alligators and witness descriptions.”
Following the boy’s death, the commission began monitoring the waters and trapping gators in hopes of finding the reptile responsible or eradicating the area of all alligators matching witnesses’ descriptions.
Past experience dictates that the alligator responsible would have remained near the attack site, and trappers located two alligators “in close proximity to the incident location,” the statement said. Commission experts concluded that both animals were capable of inflicting the wounds that the toddler suffered.
Attempts to confirm via DNA analysis were unsuccessful because the boy’s wounds tested negative for animal DNA and no comparison could be made, the commission said.
“During the investigation, trappers humanely removed six alligators from the area,” the statement said. “Round-the-clock monitoring and trapping efforts have not produced alligators of the size capable of the attack since June 16.”
Since the attack, a debate has raged over whether Disney should eradicate alligators at its resorts and over whether there should have been better signage at the beach where the boy was taken.
While experts agree the former is an impossibility — given alligators’ mobility and the vast acreage of water on Disney property — the latter poses an interesting argument.
Permit: Disney saw some gators as a danger
CNN obtained documents Friday from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission showing Disney had removed or disposed of 243 alligators between May 2008 and May 14, 2016. Six more gators were taken after the recent attack on the boy.
Some of the gators that Disney tagged as dangerous and in need of trapping were under 5 feet.
A harvest permit, which expires in 2019, states that Disney’s agents believed certain gators were a danger to people and pets.
At a nearby vacation center for the U.S. military, called Shades of Green Resort, there’s a small pond next to a golf course. A sign warns visitors to stay away from alligators. It’s roughly a 10-minute walk from the Grand Floridian.
Adjacent to the Grand Floridian was another beach with a sign warning visitors not to swim. It also says, “Please do not feed the wildlife. Feeding changes their natural behavior and may be harmful to their health.”
The signs at the Grand Floridian warned visitors against swimming, but there was no mention of wildlife, let alone alligators. A senior Disney source told CNN that the signage would be changing, with alligator warnings posted on all resort waterways.
Disney shut several beaches at its resorts following the attack. Signs were posted, and security guards asked visitors to remain on nearby sidewalks.
CNN’s MaryLynn Ryan and John Murgatroyd contributed to this report.
By Eliott C. McLaughlin and Steve Visser