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Wildlife Officials Vow to Find Gator That Dragged Boy to His Death

Tests are being conducted to see whether 5 gators trapped and killed after a toddler was drowned was responsible for the attack near a Disney resort.
Image: Lane Graves
Lane Graves, a 2-year-old boy who was dragged off by an alligator Tuesday night at Disney resort.via Facebook

Wildlife officials in Florida are working to determine whether any of the five alligators trapped and killed after a 2-year-old was dragged to his death was responsible for the fatal attack.

"We’re going to make certain that we have the alligator that was involved," Nick Wiley, executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told reporters Wednesday as the boy’s death was confirmed.

The boy, identified as Lane Graves, was wading in between 6 inches and a foot of water in a lake near Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa at around 9:16 p.m. Tuesday when the alligator grabbed him, officials said.

The boy’s body was found Wednesday in about 6 feet of water, 10 to 15 yards from shore, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said.

"There’s likely no question in my mind that the child was drowned by the alligator," Demings said.

There is a "no-swimming" sign near the water but there are no alligator warning signs where the attack occurred, a Disney spokesperson confirmed.

The spokesperson noted alligators are a fact of life in Florida, and they are in their natural habitat. The family of the child who was killed was visiting from Nebraska and may not have been completely aware of that.

Demings declined to say whether he thinks there should have been more signs warning visitors of alligators.

"Our ultimate concern is about the safety of the guests here at Disney as well as the public," Demings said. "I’m certain there will be opportunities in the future to look at what has occurred here and see if it can be prevented in the future,” he said.

Disney has a "proactive program" to remove nuisance alligators, and calls in its own trappers or in some cases uses staff to remove alligators, Wiley said.

Officials will compare bite marks and conduct other tests to determine whether any of the five alligators trapped and killed was responsible.

"There is a good chance we already have the alligator, because we focused our efforts in that proximity, in that area where this incident occurred," Wiley said.

"If we can’t get a certain match, we’re going to continue to go out and look for alligators and make sure we have done everything we can and all the due diligence to make sure we have taken that alligator out," he said.

Witnesses reported the alligator to be between 6 and 7 feet in length; the largest alligator trapped in the aftermath of the attack was 7 ½ feet long, Demings said.

Wiley said there were no reports of anyone feeding alligators, which can contribute to the animals losing their fear of people and being more prone to attack.

Deadly alligator attacks in Florida are rare. At least 23 people have died in alligator attacks statewide since 1973, according to wildlife and conservation commission records that go back to 1948.

Before Tuesday’s attack the last deadly alligator attack was in October 2015, which was the first time someone had been killed by an alligator since 2007, according to the records.

Walt Disney Company Chairman and CEO Robert A. Iger on Wednesday expressed his condolences to the Graves family.

"As a parent and a grandparent, my heart goes out to the Graves family during this time of devastating loss," Iger said. "My thoughts and prayers are with them, and I know everyone at Disney joins me in offering our deepest sympathies."