Florida wildlife agency ends Disney alligator attack investigation

Florida wildlife managers have ended their investigation into the alligator attack at a Disney resort that killed a toddler last week, confident that they have captured the animal responsible for the boy’s death.

In a statement late Wednesday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said that trappers removed six alligators near the Seven Seas Lagoon at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa after 2-year-old Lane Graves was snatched near the shore on June 14. A bite analysis was inconclusive, but officials said that witness accounts and around-the-clock monitoring after the attack led them to conclude that the gator that grabbed the toddler was among those captured and killed.

The Nebraska boy was playing near the shore just after 9 p.m. when the gator dragged him into the lagoon. The boy’s father raced into the water to save him but was unable to pull him from the gator’s grip.

An intense search followed, with wildlife officers and Disney officials scouring the lake that is connected to a canal system that runs through the resort. The boy was found 16 hours later, his body intact.

“There are no words to describe the profound sadness we feel for the family of Lane Graves,” FWC director Nick Wiley said in the statement. “We will continue to keep this family close to our hearts as they deal with the pain and grief of the loss of Lane.”

In the hours and days following the attack, trappers nabbed three alligators in the size range capable of carrying out the attack on the boy. Two of those were trapped near where the toddler was grabbed and gators typically remain nearby after an attack, officials said.

A forensic dentist said that a bite analysis was inconclusive but concluded that either of the two gators was capable of inflicting the boy’s wounds. Investigators also obtained DNA from the boy’s wounds but were unable to find any animal DNA for comparison.

Florida is home to about 1 million alligators, in all 67 counties. Fatal human attacks are relatively rare, with only 23 recorded in the state since the 1940s. When the attack occurred, the spring mating season was just winding down, a time when alligators are more active.

While a no-swimming sign was posted near the lagoon, there were no warning signs about gators. Three days after the attack, the attraction said it would begin posting alligator warning signs and install temporary barriers near lagoons and lakes while it worked on a permanent solution.

Follow Jenny Staletovich on Twitter @jenstaletovich.