Wildlife and Florida are like peas and carrots; we aren’t talking about giant mice. I’ve often equated the state of Florida to a miniature version of Australia. Snakes, crocodiles, spiders, panthers, hogs, and alligators are all part of the ecosystem in Florida. But as the state has experienced a boom in development, more run-ins with Florida’s native wildlife are happening. This is the same for Orlando, more specifically, Walt Disney World. Although Guests to Disney World have long been able to explore their wild sides at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, often visitors may be treated to not-so-tame experiences around Disney property when they encounter wild animals.
Walt Disney World is home to four sprawling theme parks. Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, EPCOT, and numerous Disney Resorts span about 43 square miles. Initially purchased by Walt Disney, the land was originally a swamp that played home to many creatures. Despite the booming construction at Walt Disney World, squirrels, raccoons, deer, turkeys, and much more still call this area home.
Although Disney does everything it can to keep wildlife in check around Walt Disney World, encounters do happen, and sometimes they can be deadly. In 2016, Lane Graves, a two-year-old visiting Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, was sadly killed by an alligator while playing on the beach near Seven Seas Lagoon. It served as a stark reminder that although Disney World bills itself as “The Most Magical Place on Earth,” Guests should always be mindful of their surroundings and safety, especially regarding Florida wildlife.
Last month, Disney Guests reported spotting a wild bear at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. The bear was hanging around the popular campsites at Fort Wilderness, and luckily, one Guest could snap a quick photo and posted to Twitter.
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Although the bear caused no personal injury, encounters this close to Guests could eventually lead to tragic circumstances. Guests often leave a trail of leftover food and other discarded items that attract wild animals. Unsurprisingly, the Florida black bear will scavenge a meal or two around Disney World property because of human behavior. With a population on the rise, over 4,000, southern states such as Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Florida have noted an uptick in human interactions with black bears. As males can weigh up to 660 lbs, some interactions may not have a happy ending.
When we think of camping, it would make sense to think of wildlife encounters, even at Walt Disney World. However, a recent sighting shows that an interaction with a bear at Disney World could happen anywhere. Walt Disney World Guest, Bucketboy12, recently posted to Reddit that they saw a black bear “running around the bridge that connects the Swan and Dolphin Resorts to Disney’s Boardwalk Resort.” Guests who are familiar with the area will undoubtedly have a good understanding of where this is.
Both the Swan and Dolphin Resorts and Disney’s Boardwalk are very popular areas within walking distance of EPCOT. Not only are these Resorts an area of interest for Guests staying there, but they are also a hot spot for dining and shopping options. Specifically, the Boardwalk is a must-do venue for many visitors to Disney World as it is home to popular locations such as Flying Fish and Trattoria al Forna. Guest will often venture over to the Boardwalk following a night of eating and drinking around the World Showcase at EPCOT.
The bear was later caught and relocated according to the Disney World Guest. This is common practice for Walt Disney World. Along with this particular bear, Disney relocates hundreds of potentially dangerous animals every year. The majority of these relocations are alligators which call the swamps of Central Florida home.
Although wildlife encounters at Walt Disney World are sure to happen, don’t expect to see black bears on Disney property. Typically, black bears are scared of humans, and unless they feel threatened, they would instead run away other than put themselves in danger. Guests are often more likely to encounter snakes and small rodents, but in the past two months, as Guests have reported seeing a bear at Disney World, it’s always safer to err on the side of caution. As Guests, even though Disney works hard to ensure safety, we must remember that Florida can be wild. If you are concerned or see a wild animal, it’s best to inform a Cast Member immediately. Never approach or attempt to handle any wildlife you may encounter on Disney property!