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Update: Family in tragic gator attack Disney World issues statement


6/18 Update: This has been a week of horrible tragedies and out of respect for the family who lost a child, I’ve refrained from making any remarks directed at or about the family. However, this today the family issued a statement and I wanted to pass it along here:

“Melissa and I continue to deal with the loss of our beloved boy, Lane, and are overwhelmed with the support and love we have received from family and friends in our community as well as from around the country. We understand the public’s interest, but as we move forward this weekend, we ask for and appreciate the privacy we need to lay our son to rest. Neither Melissa, myself or anyone from our family will be speaking publicly; we simply cannot at this time.”

— Matt and Melissa Graves

I understand why Disney has taken quick action to separate guests from the water’s edge, but I think its mostly show. They can’t prevent all encounters with nature, nor should they even try. The closeness to nature, even while you’re just steps away from some of the best entertainment ever made, is part of the attraction of a Walt Disney World vacation (especially at a place like Fort Wilderness, Wilderness Lodge, both have the word ‘wild’ in the names).

In the end, fences and signs will only serve to keep out some people, those who are determined to get in or near the water still will. Fences won’t prevent encountering a gator away from the water edge or a snake on a walkway or being struck by lightning. When you’re in Florida these are all real risks. If you want to get absurd, maybe all visitors to Florida should be stopped at the border and forced to sign a form that they’re aware of the risks of entering the state. That should do wonders for the nature travel & tourism industry.

I’m not convinced about the effectiveness of fences, but there is something Disney should do that could have prevented this tragic accident – forbid food on the boats, beaches, walkways, boardwalks and decks that overlook any body of water at the resort.

There have been reports of guests feeding alligators from the decks of the new bungalows at the Polynesian. It is illegal to feed a gator (fines start at $500) precisely because it encourages them to associate humans with food. That makes a gator more likely to be in an area with humans and more likely to attack. In the days since the attack, we’ve reached out to those who know about gator behavior and they confirmed this fact.


I have not heard if Disney plans to install cameras to watch the deck, balconies, and walkways that line the many water ways, including the bungalows. But if they haven’t they should and Disney should report any infractions to Florida Fish & Wildlife so fines can be issued. Of course, signs should be added like at the Animal Kingdom Lodge warning of the law and the potential fines.

Frankly, if anyone is responsible for the tragic death of the toddler, it’s the people who fed gators from the Bora Bora Bungalows at the Polynesian. I hope Disney takes whatever steps they can to stop that behavior in the future.

3:15pm 6/17 Update: Disney construction crews currently adding fences along the shoreline of Grand Floridian Resort beaches. They also announced new signs will be added.

See Tharin White’s Tweet:

Update: Disney sent the following sign out to the media. This is what they’ll be installing as a warning to guests at beach areas across the resort.


That’s pretty easy to read and understand. No mis-understanding there.

Disney has released a statement with the following:

“We are installing signage and temporary barriers at our resort beach locations and are working on permanent, long-term solutions at our beaches. We continue to evaluate processes and procedures for our entire property, and, as part of this, we are reinforcing training with our Cast for reporting sightings and interactions with wildlife and are expanding our communication to Guests on this topic.”

That’s good to read that a long term solution is in the offing. Because frankly even a fence can’t keep guests and nature apart. Mosquitoes have Zika, storms have lightning, even a squirrel bite can be nasty if it has rabies. There is some risk shared by the guest to be aware of their surroundings when in nature. If a gator bit me on Main Street USA, I’d be upset. But I expect to see them in the water. That’s their home.

—— Previous story ——

The beaches at Walt Disney World remain closed today while Disney huddles and recovers from the tragic loss of a two-year-old boy who was attacked and drowned by an Alligator while walking along the shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon near the Grand Floridian Resort.

In our previous coverage we have statements by both Disney CEO Bob Iger and Walt Disney World President George Kalogridis who both expressed their devastation at the loss of a child. Kalodridis also cut short his visit to the opening of Disney’s new theme park resort in Shanghai to return to Orlando after the death.

Now we’re hearing from Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Walher that the Walt Disney World Resort is “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.”

Right now there are signs asking guests not to feed wildlife and warning them not to swim in the water. This is true at Seven Seas Lagoon, Bay Lake, and similar bodies of water arou the resort. However, there are currently no warnings specifically about wildlife dangers, such as alligators.

(Actually, the Shades of Green resort does have signs up near bodies of water warning guests to avoid gators. So does at least one other nearby resort.)

It does sound like Disney will now be considering additional signage of some sort. Although it’s not clear what they will say or where they will be posted.

I’m not sure that any additional signs would have made a difference. An actual attack on a human by an alligator has only happened once before in the history of Walt Disney World. Disney regularly removes any alligator that grows to be more than 4 feet in length and is deemed a nuisance. This has been very effective method of guest safety. This attack occurred during the nesting period for gators when the animals are known to be more active moving around than in other times of the year.

Even with signs up, guests will still likely dip their toes in the shallow waters of Disney’s lakes and feed the wildlife. It’s human nature to want to do so. When part of the attraction of a Disney vacation is how the resort is located away from everything in the middle of nature, you can’t expect Disney to keep all ‘nature’ away. Humans and wildlife will always collide in Florida, there’s nothing you can do to avoid it.

In fact, one of the problems with the new DVC Bora Bora Bungalows at the Polynesian resort is that guests are feeding the wildlife from the decks. Which, of course, attacks more wildlife to the area and places humans and wild animals in closer contact than they otherwise would be. Disney can plan for this, but there is nothing they can do to stop it completely. Guests are known to let their guard down while on vacation, that’s part of being on vacation.

That doesn’t make the child’s death any less tragic, but I don’t see what could have prevented it without completely fencing off all bodies of water. What would you expect Disney to do in this situation?

It’s a been a tragic week in Orlando. We’ve endured the senseless shooting of upcoming singer Christina Grimmie on Friday, the horrible Nightclub mass shooting on Sunday morning, and the Tuesday night tragic death of a two-year-old boy in the jaws of an alligator in the Seven Seas Lagoon. As a community, we will emerge stronger, but the pain is still front and center for now. Here’s hoping we catch a break along with some time to heal and recover.