Lane Graves was snatched by an alligator at the Seven Seas Lagoon at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa while on holiday with his parents, Matt and Melissa Graves, from Elkhorn, Nebraska.
The toddler was building sandcastles on the beach and bent over to scoop up water in a bucket when the attack occurred. His body was recovered the following day by police divers near the site.
Since then, under the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s statewide alligator harvest program, trappers removed or relocated wildlife at an increased rate within established guidelines.
In 2016, 83 alligators were removed, followed by 57 in 2017, 33 in both 2018 and 2019, and 46 in 2020.
Most of the 2020 removals occurred while the park was closed due to the pandemic between March and July.
Over the eight years prior to Lane’s death, 23 alligators were removed per year on average.
“In keeping with our strong commitment to safety, we continue to reinforce procedures related to reporting sightings and interactions with wildlife, and work closely with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to remove or relocate certain wildlife from our property in accordance with state regulations,” a Walt Disney World spokesperson told Orlando’s News 6.
Following the death of Lane, a sculpture of a lighthouse was installed as a memorial, and the park added warning signs, fences, and other barriers around lakes and other bodies of water to prevent visitors from getting too close. Employee training was also amended.
In order for an alligator to be removed as a “nuisance”, it must be at least four feet in length and believed to pose a threat to people, pets, or property.
Disney has permission to have 500 of the reptiles removed in the period up until April 2023. Each must be reported to state authorities and its size noted.
Trappers receive a $30 stipend for each alligator, most of which are euthanised — their meat and skins are sometimes sold for extra income. Others are sold to zoos or farms.
Relocation is harder as they tend to return to the capture site and remote areas already have healthy populations.