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More than 200 alligators removed from Walt Disney World since toddler's death in 2016

The massive reptiles, at times, have reached up to nearly 12-feet long.
Credit: Harry Collins - stock.adobe.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Editor's note: The photo above is not of an alligator removed from Walt Disney World's property; it is a generic image. 

In the years since a 2-year-old boy was tragically killed by an alligator at Disney's Grand Floridian resort, more than 200 of the massive reptiles have been removed from the theme park's property.

That's according to data collected by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission through its "Targeted Harvest Area" permits and nuisance alligator trapper program. 

"THA permits, which have been in use for two decades, define the area’s boundaries, the duration of the permit, and how many alligators can be removed," the FWC explained.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has had its THA permit since April 29, 2009, and it remains valid through April 29, 2023.

While visiting Walt Disney World in June 2016 with his family, Lane Graves was snatched by a 7-foot alligator as he bent down at the edge of the resort's lagoon to gather sand for a sandcastle, according to an FWC report released at the time.

Since his death, Disney has erected fences, installed signage at its beach resorts and banned fishing unless it is part of an excursion. A lighthouse memorial was also dedicated in Lane's honor in 2017.

The theme park has also been working with nuisance alligator trappers to remove the massive reptiles, at times reaching nearly 12 feet in length, from its property. 

The alligator removals were first reported by WKMG investigative reporter Mike DeForest. 

The following number of alligators have been removed from Walt Disney World's property annually, according to FWC data: 

  • 2016 (from June 14 on): 54 alligators
  • 2017: 66 alligators
  • 2018: 34 alligators
  • 2019: 32 alligators
  • 2020: 46 alligators
  • 2021 (so far): 6 alligators

That number is just a small dent of Florida's "healthy and stable" alligator population, which the FWC reports is estimated to be made up of 1.3 million alligators of varying size. 

Floridians, and those visiting the state, can spot the massive reptiles across all 67 counties on any given day but alligators do prefer freshwater lakes, slow-moving rivers, wetlands and brackish water habitats, according to the FWC. 

"Anywhere there is standing water, an alligator might be found," it added.

Alligators become more visible and active during spring and summer due to both mating season and an increase in temperature sending them on a search for food.

But, don't worry, deadly alligator attacks on humans remain rare. According to FWC, the likelihood of a Floridian being seriously injured during an unprovoked alligator incident in Florida is roughly only 1 in 3.2 million. 

So, what should you do if you come across an alligator while you're out and about in Florida?

FWC says people should never feed alligators and keep their distance if they see one. People can also stay safe by only swimming in designated swimming areas and keeping pets away from the water and on a leash at all times when they're out. 

You can read more about living with alligators on FWC's website.

If an alligator is spotted somewhere it probably shouldn't be, you can call FWC's Nuisance Alligator Hotline.

FWC says an alligator can be considered a nuisance if it is at least four feet in length and the person calling it into the toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline thinks it could be a threat to people, pets or property. When people call the hotline and are concerned about an alligator, FWC says it will send out one of its nuisance alligator trappers to handle the situation. 

The  Alligator Hotline is 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286). 

10 Tampa Bay has reached out to Walt Disney World for comment. This story will be updated when we hear back.

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