Millions of years of evolution doesn't make it easier to spot this predator.
Lane Graves was only two years old when he was dragged by an alligator into the water at Disney World’s Seven Seas Lagoon in Orlando, FL, just about a week ago. Since the incident, alligator awareness and safety has been a topic of the utmost priority, especially in places where people flock in droves, like amusement parks.
Disney World, located in the heart of “gator country” in southern Florida, is no stranger to the large reptiles, though this is the first instance of an attack that has led to a park patron’s death. Videos have surfaced from as far back as 2009 in which a gator can be seen swimming in the water of Splash Mountain, only feet from the ride itself.
Though the idea of such creatures existing right beside park goers might be scary, these are things that must be reasonably considered when your theme park is in a state that contains 1.25 million of America’s nearly five million alligators.
What isn’t reasonable, however, is to expect that people coming in from out of town would recognize the dangers of an alligator attack, especially in an area surrounded by beach chairs where patrons regularly enter the water, despite the “No Swimming” signs on the beach. Some people have argued that it was an avoidable situation and the Nebraskan parents were being neglectful, but this is not the case.
I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, a town that had its fair share of alligators, so I was typically aware of the possibility of an encounter at some point in my life. A swampy stream that abutted my neighborhood would frequently have three- to four-foot alligators just feet from homes beside it, sometimes even in people’s backyards.
Lakes, ponds, and any fresh water in the area was a good place to find the creatures, but even then it wasn’t a guarantee that you would be able to spot them, unless they were out sunning themselves on the banks. At night, alligators are especially difficult to see, so it was common practice to bring a flashlight to shine along the edge of the water, since an alligator’s eyes, like a cat’s, are reflective.
But other than two terrifying, fiery orbs staring back at you out of the water, it’s nearly impossible to actually see them.
Alligators might be big, but they are prehistoric predators who have existed quite happily for a long, long time — something like 37 million years — and they did that by evolving to have a natural camouflage that can make them very difficult to spot. Especially at night, especially in a dimly lit location.
But just how well can an alligator actually camouflage itself? See for yourself if you can spot the gator in the picture below. And yes, there really is one there.
The image, posted on Twitter by Rob Caizza, highlights exactly how good a gator can be at hiding when it doesn’t want to be found.
“A photo I took of a 4 to 6 foot alligator in the grass outside Magic Kingdom right across the Grand Floridian,” Caizza writes. The picture was taken only days after Lane Graves died outside of the Grand Floridian, the hotel across the lake. Some people in the replies to his tweet were mystified that they could not see the alligator at all.
This picture, taken in broad daylight with a clear sky proves that what you think you know about spotting these creatures is absolutely nil. These prehistoric beasts are predators, and unfortunately, they are incredibly efficient at it.
Though Lane’s father fought as hard as he could, there was little that could have been done to stop it, and Lane’s remains were found only after just one day of searching. This tragedy was something Lane Graves’ family — from Nebraska — had no warning of, and no way to predict. It's a heart-wrenching disaster that no one is to blame for.
On Sunday, the Graves’ church in Elkhorn, Nebraska revealed that there will be a private ceremony for the boy on Tuesday. His family has asked that their privacy is respected, and has no current plans to make a public statement for the time being.
Our thoughts are with the Graves family as they get through this horrific time.