Smokey the Bear


(Image credit: an American black bear, United States Department of Agriculture)

The living inspiration for Smokey the Bear (as many local folks already know) was when a small American black bear cub was rescued in a fire (the Capitan Gap Fire) in 1950 near Capitan, New Mexico.  The then-tiny cub weighed only about four pounds.  According to a newspaper account some twenty-five years later, the story was retold by Elliott Barker, the former chief game warden for the New Mexico Game and Fish Department. When the cub was initially found, he was rescued by district game warden L. W. Simmons.  The injured bear cub was flown by Ray Bell, a department pilot and law enforcement officer, to Santa Fe where he was taken to Dr. Edwin J. Smith, a veterinarian. Bell took him home to his family once the cub’s injured paws and hind legs were treated.  The pilot’s family hand fed the cub and cared for him.  Bell would relate that the cub would respond to anyone in  the family but him.  When Bell tried to handle him, he would be rewarded with a nip on his hands just about every time.

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