Celebrating Smokey the Bear, Past & Present

During the month of August, nature-lovers across the country celebrated Smokey the Bear, and our local residents did the same.

On August 9 in honor of Smokey Bear’s 75th birthday, the Friends of Panthertown hosted a LNT (leave no trace) presentation and celebration for trail explorers of all ages. The program was designed to teach all the importance of showing special, natural places some love by leaving no trace that hikers were ever there. This coincides with many overall wildlife programs and practices of organizations dedicated to preserving and appreciating our natural wildlife.

Smokey the Bear, as many know, is the face of forest fire prevention. Though the story of Smokey originated in New Mexico, the effects against forest fires remain relevant everywhere as 89% of wildfires were caused by humans in 2018, according to the NIFC.

As the story goes, an operator at a fire tower in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico spotted not only a budding forest fire but a bear cub caught in its path. The fire blazed on despite efforts from local crews and the bear cub was forced up a tree to weather the fire. Suffering bad burns on his paws and hind legs, the cub was removed from the tree and taken to have his burns treated and bandaged. The little cub’s story spread quickly and earned bouts of sympathy from many. He earned the name Smokey due to coverage from major news outlets who shared his story. Smokey Bear, now a living advocate for wildfire prevention, made his home at the National Zoo in Washington D.C., until he returned home to be buried at the Smokey Bear Historical Park upon the end of his life.

His legacy lives on, however. His image remains a friendly face for kids and adults alike looking to learn more about camping and enjoying time in the forest. Smokey the Bear serves as a reminder to all that if we truly value wildlife, as we all should, there are steps we can take toward proper conservation.  

With the cooler fall weather around the corner, campfires become a must for campers and residents alike. Be sure to review these tips to keep your campfire from becoming a wildfire.

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