On the morning of September 18, a black bear was spotted at Magic Kingdom Park at the Walt Disney World Resort. Three themed lands inside the park were closed off to guests while Disney World cast members and management, along with officers and biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, worked to find the bear so she could be safely removed and relocated outside the park.
Several hours following the initial sighting of the animal, an announcement was made that the bear had been located, and before she was even removed from the premises, Disney World reopened the three lands at Magic Kingdom that had been closed that morning–Adventureland, Frontierland, and Liberty Square.
But between the initial sighting of the bear in the park to the relocation of the wild animal to a nearby forest, there were hours of work, planning, executing those plans, taking measures to protect those involved, searching for the bear, locating the bear, preparing the bear for transport outside of the Disney park, etc. Now, for the first time since the incident, Disney World and the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission have shared a video detailing activities of that morning that led to the capture of the bear and the continued safety of those involved–including guests at Magic Kingdom that day.
A Combined Effort
The video, released on Monday, shows state wildlife officials with FWC attempting to capture a black bear that wandered into the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World in mid-September.
“Hopefully, we can get this bear out of here quickly,” said Rick Brown, an FWC officer who was outfitted with a body cam as he worked with his team in the capturing of the bear at Disney World.
In one part of the video, the 150-pound bear is visible approximately 35 feet above the ground in a tree between the Magic Kingdom’s railroad tracks and the Rivers of America, where the Liberty Belle riverboat takes guests on a scenic tour around part of Frontierland.
A member of Disney’s Wildlife Management team can be heard telling Brown that officials at Disney World had witnessed the wild animal inside the area of land that encircles Magic Kingdom earlier in the day.
“[The bear] was right along the railroad tracks, which terrifies us because that gives it access to the entire park,” the Disney Wildlife team employee said. “So we hazed it, [and] it went this way and up into the tree.”
According to the Disney employee, Disney World has a state permit to trap bears. Certain cast members also receive routine training from Florida’s Wildlife Commission that includes instructions on how to chase bears away from areas that are heavily populated with the use of air horns, paintball guns, and slingshots.
During the incident on September 18, Disney cast members who had access to those items were placed along the railroad tracks at Magic Kingdom on both sides of the known location of the animal. This was reportedly happening as Magic Kingdom opened to guests that morning.
Adventureland, Frontierland, and Liberty Square were closed to guests as the situation unfolded, which meant that some of the most popular attractions in the park were closed as well, including Haunted Mansion and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Although the Florida Wildlife Commission generally recommends giving bears space and allowing them to move along on their own, the state agency decided it was necessary to capture the bear by temporarily putting it to sleep with chemicals shot from a dart gun.
“He’s in a portion of the tree that’s going to be easy to dart,” Brown told a colleague by phone. “But if he falls straight down, he’s going to be falling into the water.”
FWC biologists were prepared to jump in the water to rescue the bear from drowning if it landed in the river and fell asleep, the video shows.
Guest Areas and Attraction Locations Were Used in the Effort
Disney employees put together large nets in front of teepees along the Rivers of America, even as animatronic animals and people were moving around them. During the effort, a recording of a dog barking that routinely plays in that area of the park posed the threat of challenging the teams’ efforts to capture the bear.
In the video, a Disney cast member can be heard saying, “That dog has got to stop barking; [the bear] ain’t going to come down!”
As the time of capture approached, Florida Wildlife Commission officials even joked about the bear’s location at Magic Kingdom, saying things like, “I think he wants to see the Country Bear Jamboree,” to which another officer is heard responding with, “No ticket, no entry. You don’t get free rides.”
Before the bear could be captured, she was shot in the hind leg with a chemical dart from an air-powered rifle. The rifle was fired at approximately 10:30 a.m., according to the video. But instead of the animal falling into the water, as officials were previously concerned about, the bear scurried off deeper into the woods, away from the location of the water.
Officer Brown can be heard saying, “Let’s give him 20 minutes. Let him calm down and fall asleep. If he feels safe, he’ll lay down.”
The Bear is Finally Captured
Once it was deemed that the bear was no longer a danger to people, officers with the FWC, as well as members of Disney’s Wildlife Team then made their way through heavy brush, searching for the adult female bear. She was located in an area of thick brush just before 1:00 p.m. local time, more than two hours after she was hit with the chemical dart.
The video of the officers’ efforts to locate the bear stopped just before the bear was found.
The state agency later transported the bear to the Ocala National Forest, where it was safely released, as seen in the video below from the Florida Wildlife Commission.