Do you know what Walt Disney World was before it became the world’s most magical vacation destination? Florida swampland. Do you know what lives in Florida swamps? Snakes. And alligators, and other things that make me run away screaming and flailing my arms.
Let me debunk one myth right now. There is no way they are more scared of me than I am of them; I can promise you this. There is not a water moccasin out there who is currently working himself into a state of near nausea at the thought of encountering me. A few people might feel that way about me, but the reptilian population of central Florida does not regard me with any amount of fear. Contempt maybe, but not fear.
Myth number two: Walt Disney World is too full of people for reptiles to want to be there. Nice try, but no. I’ve seen them with my own two beady little eyes. And no, I’m not referring to the crocodiles on the Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I mean I’ve seen water moccasins charging through the water at Fort Wilderness (Disney’s campground). I’ve seen alligators swimming near the shores of Bay Lake. Heck, they’ve even been seen in the Magic Kingdom, the most crowded place in all of WDW. You see, Disney went to great effort to make Big Thunder Mountain Railroad look really authentic. They did such a good job that several rattlesnakes have been fooled into thinking this would make a nice home.
To Disney’s credit, they attempt to deal with these, er, issues in the most efficient and humane ways possible. They generally capture said critters, and transfer them to The Nature Conservancy's Disney Wilderness Preserve. This is a 12,000 acre preserve created by Disney to protect the headwaters of the Everglades ecosystem, and is one of the largest off-site wetlands mitigation projects ever undertaken in the United States. This proves that the people of Disney are far better humans than me. For starters, I’m just not generous enough to donate 12,000 acres of land to anybody, much less a bunch of bald eagles, Florida scrub-jays, sandhill cranes and gopher tortoises. Also, my idea of pest control would be more along the lines of chasing them with a shotgun while screaming “Die, Die!” in a shrill squeal that would shatter eardrums (if they had any).
This is one of the primary reasons Disney does not allow you to swim in their lakes. They want you to have a good time, and losing an arm generally puts a damper on a vacation. There’s also this lovely little thing called Naegleria. This is a brain-eating amoeba that lives in some fresh water lakes in warmer climates. I am not making this up. The amoeba usually creeps through your nose while you swim in lakes. Once it finds its way up into your brain, there is really no hope. The seizures start, followed by a coma. The parasitic amoeba chews through your brain matter, and since you kind of need your brain to live, that means it is curtains for both you and your hungry little guest.
“Then why,” you may ask, “does Disney allow you to boat and parasail on the lakes?” Well, the amoebas actually live in the silt of the lake floor, so if you stay on the surface, you won’t stir them up. And the noise of the boat motors can generally be counted on to scare off the reptilian population, so Disney is relatively secure in your safety. That said, I have seen snake bite kits for sale at Fort Wilderness. You know, just in case.
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