Find out how Smokey has helped prevent wildfires since 1944.
- Kind of Bear
- Smokey is a black bear. American black bears live in the United States, along with brown, grizzly and polar bears.
- He weighs over 300 pounds. Smokey has black bear relatives who weigh as much as 800 pounds, and some of his grizzly bear cousins weigh almost a ton (that’s 2,000 pounds)!
- Weight at birth
- Smokey weighed about 1½ pounds. In other words, he weighed about as much as a big loaf of bread.
- Favorite Clothes
- Smokey’s favorite clothes are his personalized ranger hat, blue jeans and belt. Smokey often stands upright, shovel in hand.
- Favorite Saying
- Smokey’s favorite saying is “Only you can prevent wildfires.”
- Favorite Foods
- Smokey’s favorite foods are forest takeout: ants and other insects, salmon or trout, bark, plants, roots, and berries. And honey, too, of course!
- Favorite Winter Activity
- Wildfire prevention keeps Smokey busy year-round. But his relatives go into a heavy sleep in the winter, called hibernation. They will awake if the weather is warm or if they are disturbed. Bears eat a year’s worth of food in six to eight months so they have a layer of fat which keeps them fed during this winter sleep.
- What Smokey Needs
- Smokey needs your help! Smokey and his forest friends need healthy forests and wildlands in which to live. Help stop their homes from being destroyed by wildfires.
- Smokey’s Story
- Smokey Bear was born on August 9, 1944, when the USDA Forest Service and the Ad Council agreed that a fictional bear named Smokey would be their symbol for forest fire prevention.
Artist Albert Staehle was asked to paint the first poster of Smokey Bear. It showed Smokey pouring a bucket of water on a campfire and saying “Care will prevent 9 out of 10 fires.” Smokey Bear soon became very popular, and his image appeared on a lot of forest fire prevention materials. In 1947 his slogan became the familiar “Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires!”, which was later updated to be “Only YOU Can Prevent Wildfires!”
Then in the spring of 1950, in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico, a young bear cub found himself caught in a burning forest. He climbed a tree to survive, but he was still badly burned. The firefighters who retrieved him were so moved by his bravery, they named him Smokey.
News about this real bear named Smokey spread across the nation, and he was soon given a new home at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. As the living symbol of Smokey Bear, he played an important role in spreading messages of wildfire prevention and forest conservation. Smokey died in 1976 and was returned to Capitan, New Mexico, where he is buried at the State Historical Park, now called Smokey Bear Historical Park.
You can write Smokey Bear a letter at Smokey Bear Washington, D.C. 20252.