It was an eventful morning at Magic Kingdom, as a real bear in Frontierland caused that land plus Liberty Square and Adventureland to remain closed for the first half of September 18, 2023. Here are full details and statements, plus our commentary about unbearably high wait times and other animal sightings in Walt Disney World.
Let’s start with the brand-new statement from Walt Disney World: “We are working with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and have made the decision to reopen Frontierland, Liberty Square and Adventureland…As shared by the [Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission], staff are on site and working on capturing and relocating the bear.”
Prior to that, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) released its own statement confirming rumors of a bear sighting in Frontierland, and indicated that they were aware of a black bear in a tree on Walt Disney World property. “Biologists with the FWC’s Bear Management Program, as well as FWC officers, are on scene. In most cases, it is best for bears to be given space and to move along on their own, but given this situation, staff are working on capturing and relocating the bear.”
Magic Kingdom has now nearly fully reopened after half of the park was closed earlier today due to a black bear who took up residence in Frontierland. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission removed and relocated the bear that was occupying a tree near Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Unconfirmed and unserious rumors indicate that the black bear wanted to see a show performed by his dozen-plus pals in Grizzly Hall, but was thwarted by a closed door. So this whole ordeal could’ve been avoided if Country Bear Jamboree simply opened before 11 am!
Cast Members noticed the bear before the park opened to guests this morning, which meant no guests were ever in the vicinity of the black bear in the tree. Which also means that this article features a lot of photos of fake bear friends from Country Bear Jamboree, rather than the real bruin in the tree.
Instead, those areas were kept closed when the rest of the Magic Kingdom opened at 9 am. At rope drop, Cast Members indicated that this was due to ‘technical difficulties’ (not a totally uncommon thing), but rumor started to spread that it was actually due to a bear on the prowl. (Or rather, chilling in a tree.)
UPDATE: As it turns out, there is footage of the black bear being captured, courtesy of WESH 2, which had its Chopper 2 helicopter in the air high above Magic Kingdom. (There’s video footage of the bear removal at the link above.)
The image above shows the bear removal team carrying a large black figure in a white tarp. FWC Law Enforcement officers safely captured the adult, female black bear and will be relocating the bear out of Magic Kingdom to an area in or around the Ocala National Forest.
As a result of the black bear incident, the following Magic Kingdom rides were closed for the entire morning:
- Big Thunder Mountain
- Country Bear Jamboree
- Hall of Presidents
- Haunted Mansion
- Jungle Cruise
- Magic Carpets of Aladdin
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Swiss Family Treehouse
- Walt Disney World Railroad
- Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
As of 2 pm Eastern, only the Walt Disney World Railroad remains closed. We’d expect those stations to reopen at any time.
Unsurprisingly, wait times have been astronomical throughout Magic Kingdom as a result of the bear incident. Part of this is just the normal best & worst days of the week dynamics at Walt Disney World, which itself is exaggerated during Party Season due to shorter hours on several days of the week. So Monday would’ve been busy regardless. But it definitely wouldn’t have been this bad.
It’s further exacerbated by literally half of the park being closed, consolidating crowds into Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. Basically, it’s like a perfect storm of bad circumstances. Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and normal attendance patterns push people into Mondays in Magic Kingdom, and then this mischievous bear packs everyone in the already busier-than-normal park into only a few lands.
As a result, wait times skyrocketed, with several attractions averaging over hour-long wait times today. According to thrill-data, the current crowd level of Magic Kingdom is 10/10 and the average wait time is 41 minutes. That’s quite the contrast to yesterday, which was a 1/10 with an average wait time of 17 minutes.
Again, today would’ve been busier than yesterday regardless. Monday is the worst day to do Magic Kingdom right now, whereas Sunday is the best day. (To put this into more normal context, last Sunday saw an average wait time of 15 minutes, versus 27 minutes for a 2/10 crowd level on Monday. Still not peak season crowds, but that’s a sharp Sunday to Monday spike, and the ‘feels like’ congestion levels are even worse.)
I mention all of this because I woke up today with the intention of doing a crowd report, but this bear threw a real monkey wrench into those plans. We’ll try again tomorrow or Wednesday!
As for black bear best practices, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds residents and visitors that state’s black bears are more active in search of food as autumn approaches. During the fall, bears start consuming more calories to pack on fat reserves for the winter, even if they are not hibernating in Florida for as they do in colder climates.
Adult bears consume approximately 20,000 calories a day during the fall, meaning they are more active while in search of food. Being opportunistic eaters, bears will take advantage of easy meals from trash cans or the ground. “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.
As such, it’s recommended to follow the six BearWise Basics to avoid negative interactions, including securing food and garbage, never approaching or feeding bears, removing bird feeders, never leaving pet food outdoors, cleaning and storing grills, and alerting the FWC to bear activity. Perhaps this black bear incident is the result of Mickey leaving out Pluto’s food overnight by Big Thunder?!
Black bears are not aggressive, but they can injure people and pets if provoked or protecting offspring. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the majority of negative bear interactions in the state involve dogs. Otherwise, black bears generally try to avoid human contact. Bears can be found almost anywhere in Florida, but they prefer flatwoods, swamps, scrub oak ridges, bayheads, and hammock habitats. Black bears roam this time of year in search of food, water, and adequate cover.
In terms of commentary, this should serve as a cautionary tale for what happens when you mess with Country Bear Jamboree. The bruins have been angered by all of the Disney songs! There are actually a lot of good memes and jokes about this on social media, thanks largely to there being about two-dozen fake bears in Magic Kingdom before this real one arrived to hang with his homies.
Other than that, the only thing I’d add is that you shouldn’t freak out about a black bear being spotted in Magic Kingdom. For one thing, black bears aren’t the same as grizzly bears. Black bears aren’t always black, but are generally much smaller and more mellow than their grizzled counterparts. (Back at the height of my National Park adventures, I used to visit specifically during this time of year for increased bear activity.)
For another thing, Walt Disney World is home to a lot of wildlife. You might want to stop reading now if this type of thing is unsettling or scary, but alligators are a frequent fixture. We have a friend who used to work in Tomorrowland, and he said they regularly spotted alligators in the ponds behind Space Mountain. In addition to that, there are legendary stories of alligators hiding cooling off behind toilets in the restrooms. (I’m not sure to what extent those are true or tall tales among Cast Members–but they’re amusing regardless!)
While we’ve never spotted any alligators at Walt Disney World, we used to see them in our old neighborhood all the time. There’s a rule thumb in Florida: if there’s water, there’s alligators. Beyond that, there’s a ton of other wildlife around Walt Disney World. If you’ve spent any amount of time at Wilderness Lodge or Fort Wilderness, you’ve probably seen deer, turkeys, and other woodland critters. (On a tangentially related note, I’d highly recommend Path of the Panther on Disney+.)
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Thoughts on the bear incident at Magic Kingdom? Are you in the park today? Others on the situation? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!