Black Bear Loose in Disney's Magic Kingdom Causes A Park Shutdown


Sep. 19 2023, Updated 1:17 p.m. ET

Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Source: Getty Images

You may have read about recent increases in bear attacks or bears spending time in places outside of their usual habitats. Would you believe that a bear was recently discovered in "The Most Magical Place on Earth?" Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Fla., had an unexpected guest on Sept. 18, 2023.

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A female black bear was spotted in a tree, prompting the park to close many of the attractions for the safety of the visitors. But this is no Country Bear Jamboree — why was a bear loose in Disney's Magic Kingdom? Here are the details about the bear that visited Disney for a day.

A black bear in a tree.
Source: Getty Images
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A black bear was temporarily loose in Disney's Magic Kingdom.

The female black bear was first spotted in a tree at the Magic Kingdom, near the popular Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride in Frontierland, The Mirror stated. The park temporarily closed several rides in Frontierland, Liberty Square, and Adventureland while they worked with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to capture the bear.

The rides shut down included Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Hall of Presidents, Liberty Square Riverboat, A Pirate’s Adventure, Tom Sawyer Island, and Walt Disney World Railroad, per NBC News.

Thankfully, officials were able to capture the bear by about 2 p.m. ET, the outlet reported.

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Video taken by a WESH-TV news helicopter showed law enforcement officials carrying the bear in a white tarp. "Biologists with the FWC's Bear Management Program, as well as FWC Law Enforcement officers, have safely captured the adult female bear," the FWC said in a statement.

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The bear was captured and relocated to Ocala National Forest.

The bear was relocated Ocala National Forest, which is almost two hours north of Disney World. "In most cases, it is best for bears to be given space and to move along on their own, but given this situation, staff have captured the animal and are relocating the bear out of the park to an area in or around the Ocala National Forest,” the FWC said in a statement.

According to the National Forest Foundation, the Ocala National Forest is home to Florida’s largest black bear population. In 2015, it was estimated that about 1,200 bears lived there, per the National Forest Foundation.

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Officials say the bear was most likely looking for food.

FWC officials said the bear was most likely looking for food when it entered Disney World grounds. “During the fall, bears are more active as they search for food to pack on fat reserves for the winter,” the commission told USA Today.

Even in Florida’s warmer climate, bears will hibernate during the winter months, and adult bears need to consume about 20,000 calories a day in the fall to prepare for hibernation, per the FWC website.

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“Any accessible food source, such as unsecured garbage, pet food or bird seed, can be enticing to a hungry bear preparing for the winter, potentially drawing them into conflict with people,” said FWC Bear Management Program Coordinator Mike Orlando on the commission’s website.

The FWC recommends you follow these six “BearWise Basics” to help prevent interactions with bears:

  1. Never feed or approach bears.

  2. Secure all food and garbage.

  3. Remove or secure bird feeders.

  4. Never leave pet food outdoors.

  5. Clean and store grills.

  6. Alert your neighbors of bear activity.

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