THE LIVING SMOKEY BEAR
The living symbol of Smokey
At first he was called "Hotfoot Teddy," but he was later renamed Smokey, after the mascot. There are conflicting stories regarding the individual or individuals who first helped nurse the cub after the fire. According to the New York Times obituary for Homer C. Pickens, then Assistant Director of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, he kept the cub at his home for awhile, trying to nurse him back to health. According to other records, including a story in Life Magazine, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Ranger Ray Bell took him to Santa Fe, where he, his wife Ruth, and their children, Don and Judy, cared for the cub. The story was picked up by the national news services and Smokey became a celebrity. Soon after, Smokey was flown in a Piper Cub airplane to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.. A special room was prepared for him at the St. Louis zoo for an overnight fuel stop during the trip, and when he arrived at the National Zoo, several hundred spectators, including members of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, photographers, and media were there to welcome him to his new home.
Smokey Bear lived at the National Zoo for 26 years. During that time he received millions of visitors as well as so many letters addressed to him (up to 13,000 a week)that the United States Postal Service finally gave him his own unique zip code. He developed a love for peanut butter sandwiches, in addition to his daily diet of bluefish and trout.
Upon his death on November 9, 1976, Smokey's remains were returned by the government to Capitan, New Mexico, and buried at what is now the Smokey Bear Historical Park. The plaque at his grave reads, "This is the resting place of the first living Smokey Bear...the living symbol of wildfire prevention and wildlife conservation." The Washington Post ran a semi-humorous obituary for Smokey, labeled "Bear," calling him a transplanted New Mexico native who had resided for many years in Washington, D.C., with many years of government service. It also mentioned his family, including his wife, Goldie Bear, and "adopted son" Little Smokey. The obituary noted that Smokey and Goldie were not blood-relatives, despite the fact that they shared the same "last name" of "Bear." The Wall Street Journal included an obituary for Smokey Bear on the front page of the paper, on Nov 11, 1976, and so many newspapers included articles and obituaries that the National Zoo archives include four complete scrapbooks devoted to them.
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To view the comic book edition published by the National Wildlife Federation in 1956 version of Smokey Bear . . . Click on the comic photo to enlarge . . . Click on enlarged photo if + or - symbol appears to fully enlarge . . . Scroll down to read . . .Return Arrow back to Smokey Bear Page.