The Longdogs

The Longdogs
Willy, Harley (back center), and Gretchen

Smokey Bear Historical Park

Oops....I think this published before it was written so here goes the update. We visited Capitan, New Mexico which is the birthplace and final resting place of Smokey Bear. Two man-made fires occurred in 1950 on 4 May (the Lost Tablos blaze) and 6 May (the Capitan Gap fire) in the Lincoln National Forest. 17,000 acres of forest were burned, many private properties lost, and severe loss of wildlife and environment occurred.

On 8 May, 1950 a 70 mile per hour wind made it impossible to control the fire and 19 men were trapped in a rockslide while the fire raged around them. They were rescued without loss of life. On 9 May, a fire crew brought a badly singed bear cub into the fire camp. They found the frightened cub clinging tenaciously to the side of a burnt pine tree. He was badly burned on his buttocks and feet and was originally named "Hotfoot" but that was soon changed to Smokey Bear. His burns were treated at the nearby Flatley Ranch and then he was flown by Game Warden Ray Bell to the veterinary hospital in Santa Fe.  Bell later kept Smokey in his home where he was a "mite domineering" with the other family pets and was also a ham.

The Forest Service had already in 1944 originated and authorized the use of a poster by artist, Albert Staehle, depicting a bear named Smokey. The campaign became even more popular after the real Smokey was included. Smokey even had his own zip code because he received so much mail. In July 1950 Smokey was presented to the school children of America and he moved into his permanent home at the National Zoo.

In 1956, a Smokey Bear Club, Inc, was formed in Capitan to further conservation efforts. $2,300 was raised and with donated materials and labor, a log cabin museum was constructed. A ranger's wife, Dorothy Guck designed the museum based on the Forest Service's bulletin "How to Construct a Log Cabin". The museum opened in 1960.

New Mexico adopted the black bear as the state animal, and on its golden anniversary in 1962, a female bear named Goldie, also from the Lincoln National Forest, was sent to the Washington Zoo. Goldie and Smokey never had any cubs.

Smokey passed away in his sleep in 1976. His body was returned to the Capitan Mountains.

Smokey rests in peace in the garden at the Smokey Bear Museum in Capitan.

This statue is over Smokey's grave depicting how he was found in the forest,

Remember Smokey and "Remember Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires!"  Capitan is very proud of Smokey and numerous places in town are named after him.

1 comment:

  1. We've been there. Stayed at a very interesting little rv park and had a fantastic dinner.


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