We watched, along with everyone else, the horror that unfolded at the Grand Floridian & Seven Seas Lagoon this past week. Our hearts go out to the parents of Lane Graves, who was taken by an alligator and drowned.
It is very easy to look back on something that has happened (the phrase “20/20 hindsight” comes to mind) and say what should have and could have been done. Obviously, we all wish that what happened could be undone. While it can’t be undone, maybe we can prevent it from happening again.
We have followed the Lane Graves story all week and from the beginning we suspected that guests and tourists had been feeding the alligators that reside in the lagoon at the Grand Floridian. The following statement came from the June 19th edition of the Orlando Sentinel: One employee at the Disney property who did not want to be identified said in an e-mail “there is such a problem on the property with guests feeding the alligators
thinking it’s cool.”
Our alligator population is NOTHING like the population Florida deals with, but we do have one thing in common with them. Their alligators are illegally fed by humans and so are ours. That is the biggest issue we deal with. When we are out cleaning alligator habitats, we’re not cleaning up after the alligators. We’re cleaning up after the people who have fed them. I can’t tell you how many yellow Styrofoam trays that raw chicken comes in that we pick up that have teeth marks on them. After people feed the gators the raw chicken, they often throw down the yellow Styrofoam trays and the gators smell the chicken juice and then try to eat that as well.
We are not the police and we are not the wildlife. We don’t have the authority to write tickets or tell people what to do. We point out signs that say it is illegal to feed them. We tell them there could be a $500 fine. We try to encourage people not to feed them and tell them why. Why? Because after being fed ONLY ONE TIME, an alligator is smart enough to associate a human with food every single time it sees one.
Here is something we CAN do in NC to prevent a tragedy like what happened in Florida last week from happening. Do NOT feed the alligators. If you see someone doing it, take a video, then snap a picture of their license tag and report them to the NC Wildlife
(800-662-7137). Be very respectful of ALL wildlife and keep a safe distance from alligators. They are beautiful creatures and we are lucky we are able to observe them in their natural habitats. However, we all have to use common sense and be especially vigilant with our children and pets when we are near ANY body of water during the warmer months. Please remember, ANY body of water has the potential to have an alligator in it. Just because there may not be an alligator there one day, doesn’t mean there won’t be one there the very next time you look!
Something else we want to make a comment about is the fact that we “name” all of the alligators we come in contact with. We do love these alligators. This is more than a hobby to us. It is a mission. It is our passion. Some of the alligators that you see on our website are ones we saw one time and never saw again. Some are our favorites … the ones we see over and over again, year after year, in their same habitats … their HOMES. We name them so we can document certain facts. Such as location, dates, time, temperature and even injuries the alligator may have gotten since the last season. And yes, we feel as if we know these alligators. We have spent countless hours with them - taking photos, taking videos, cleaning up after the people who have illegally fed them and thrown trash at them. But make no mistake … these alligators are NOT our pets. They are wild creatures. They aren’t in a zoo. There is no fence keeping us from them, or them from us. Please keep yourselves safe, your children safe and your pets safe. And please keep our natural resources safe which includes our alligator population.