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The History of Smokey The Bear | Duluth Pack

Smokey Bear is a famous hero and symbol for wildfire prevention and forest conservation, with virtue and determination, Smokey Bear creates a tone and widespread message of the importance for awareness and protection of the natural beauty of our environment and forests. Smokey Bear is the ultimate symbol for prevention and care and America’s wildlife protector. The idea of Smokey Bear was created on August 9th of 1944, when an Ad Council and the U.S. Forest Service concurred that a fictional bear would be the ideal emblem to constitute their joint effort of promoting wildfire precautions. An artist by the name of Albert Staehle painted the very first poster of Smokey Bear and was accredited for designing imagery to go along with this iconic symbol of America. On the poster, Albert Staehle conveyed a fictional bear pouring a bucket onto a fire with the caption, “Care will prevent 9 out of 10 fires!” The image of Smokey Bear became extremely popular and widely apparent to the mass audiences of America, as he appeared on many fire prevention advertisements and fire prevention materials. Then in 1947, Smokey Bear’s official slogan transformed into, “Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires!”

A few years later in 1950, within the Captain Mountains of New Mexico, a fire tower operator caught a glimpse of smoke advancing throughout a nearing forest and radioed to the nearest ranger station explaining the detection of a major forest fire within the area that started raging from the heavy winds present, causing the flames to sprawl in-between the trees. As word continued to spread rapidly about the crisis, numerous crews near the surrounding area were called in to help advise the scene and assist with controlling the forest fire. The crewmen pursued and battled at the front lines of the forest fire, as they spotted a baby black bear cub fending for his life directly in the middle of the intense flames of the fire. Then, the bear cub climbed a charred tree as a safeguard from the flames as the fire burned directly passed him. After the flames burned passed the bear cub and the tree that he was stuck in, a crewman rescued the bear cub from the carbonized tree, saving the bear cub's life, even though the bear cub suffered terrible burns to his paws and hind legs. However, there was a rancher working amongst the crew and took the baby bear cub into a refuge. Later on, a New Mexico Department of Game and Fish employee heard about the story of the bear cub caught within the flames of this devastating forest fire and journeyed to the rancher’s land to provide care and assist with sending the bear cub on a plane to Santa Fe to tend to and treat the bear cub's burns. The story continued to surface and was brought to light by the masses of New Mexico, only until the United Press and Association Press released a broadcast of the little bear cub and his story that became a nationwide sensation. As many concerned citizens would write in for updates about the bear cub, the game state warden communicated with the Chief of Forest Service requesting the idea of presenting the bear cub to the agency, as long as the bear cub remained dedicated to the Conservation and Wildlife Prevention publicity program. Once this decision was concluded, the baby bear cub was transferred and lived at the National Zoo in Washington D.C., becoming “Smokey Bear”.

Smokey Bear lived a life of comfort at the National Zoo as he received many letters and gifts of honey, in fact so many offerings that he was given his own zip code! Smokey Bear lived at the National Zoo until 1976 when he passed and was brought back to be buried at the Smokey Bear Historical Park in Captain, New Mexico where his legacy of wildfire prevention and forest conservation carried on. It is noted that his name has always remained “Smokey Bear”, even though “Smokey the Bear” has become a familiarized nickname for him, as Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson added “the” in-between his name in 1952 as they wrote an anthem for the bear cub and needed to maintain the rhythm of their song.

Smokey Bear remains an American hero and symbol for the promotion of wildfire prevention and conservation of our environment, specifically for the forests. Did you know that nine out of ten forest fires are produced because of humans? That is why it is up to you and me to maintain the natural beauty of our habitat and to refrain from devastating our environment. Carry on Smokey Bear’s legacy by protecting your home and safely explore the forests. To ensure your campfire is completely out while adventuring through the forest, they say to “drown it, stir it, drown it again, and then touch it to see if it is cold”.

Smokey Bear’s birthday is August 9th of 1944, and he will turn seventy-six this summer, make sure to get out and safely explore the forests in honor of the great conservationist hero, Smokey Bear!

“Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires!” –Smokey Bear


Happy adventuring, friends!