Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Unexpected Wildlife of Disneyland


The Unexpected Wildlife of Disneyland

On a recent visit to the park we were surprised to find a creature in the waters of Disneyland that we had never seen there before. We were walking on the Big Thunder Trail from Frontierland to Fantasyland when we looked into the water across the walkway from Big Thunder Mountain. In the water we saw a hatchling red eared slider turtle! Across the water sunning itself was a large adult red eared slider turtle! This started me thinking about the animals in the park and got me asking questions.

We all know that Disneyland keeps animals at the park. There are the horses that pull the Main Street Cars and that are sometimes in parades. There are goats, sheep, chickens, donkeys and even the Presidential Turkeys living at the Circle D Ranch. The farm animals are on display on a rotating basis at the Big Thunder Ranch. At Christmas Santa even brings his Reindeer from the North Pole to visit the park during the months of November and December. These are all under the strict watchful eyes of Cast Members trained and assigned to care for each one.

Most people have heard of the “feral” cats that run lose around the parks. The cats are there to keep the rodent population down. Wherever there are lots of people eating and dropping food there will be rodents. The cats are periodically caught and given a health check as well as shots. They are neutered and spade. There are feeding stations around the park to insure they have a balanced healthy diet as well as eating what they catch.

Everyone has seen the ducks and sea gulls and smaller birds around the parks as well. But did you know there is more?


Disney has tried to make the Rivers of America, and all other waterways in the park natural ecosystems. That is why the ducks call Disneyland home and in fact do not migrate as they would normally do. The waters of Disneyland are “stocked” with misquote eating fish as well as large carp. These attract the birds and feed them. The misquote eating fish help keep the misquotes down as well. Also there are crawdads and red eared slider turtles in the water. Because of the vitality of the waters you may also find blue heron, egrets, Canadian geese, Chinese painted ducks, coots and other waterfowl calling the waters of Disneyland home or at least resting up there.

Ducks are protected by law. Often you will see a mother duck leading her family of newly hatched ducklings around the park through the crowds. Cast Members, often security will escort them through the crowds keeping people back from the birds providing safe space until they can return to the water or fenced in grassy area. Once I saw the Horse Drawn Street Car held up and forced to wait as a family of ducks walked across the tracks and the babies got up the curb to safety. Cast Members were keeping guests away as they guided the ducks to safety off the track. No wonder Disneyland ducks do not migrate but stay there year round.

There are raccoons and possums that hide out in the park with the squirrels and other “normal” wildlife you would find in any neighborhood of Orange County, Ca. Once a coyote got into the park during the night, somehow it got in one gate and ran across the park and out a gate at the other side of the park. The coyote was in and out of the park quickly doing no injury to any animals in the park the coin and the birds digestive juice was toxic to the birds. There was no way to stop the people from tossing coins and no place to keep the birds secure away for to any Cast Members working the 3rd shift. Nobody can truly explain how or why the coyote was there.

Rumors are that the pair of swans that use to be in front of the Castle were eaten by a coyote. That is not true. I had the pleasure of speaking with a long time Cast Member that was responsible for caring for the birds, named Lillian & Walt when they were there. She told us that people toss coins into the water and the swans would eat the coins. The chemical reaction in the bird’s gullet betweenrom the coins. Even years later this caring Cast Member lovingly remembered the birds and started to cry as she told us about the day she had to put a deathly ill Lillian in the front seat of the Disneyland truck and take her to the vet to be put down. Her eyes got teary as she described how Lillian put her head in her lap and she petted her as they drove. This was something the usually aggressive bird never did.

While at the parks take a moment and look around. What animal life to you see there? It does not matter if the animal is part of the Disneyland “show” or if it is a wild animal that found its way into the park Disney does its best to take care of them.

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