Smokey Bear

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Smokey's instant catch-phrase is "Only YOU can prevent forest fires!"

Smokey Bear is a mascot of the United States Forest Service created in 1944 to educate the public on the dangers of forest fires. Initially the Forest Service used Bambi, from the Walt Disney film, on its posters, but Bambi was only loaned to them by Disney for one year, so a new animal mascot had to be created. The bear's first poster was prepared on August 9, 1944. In 1952, after Smokey Bear became popular enough to attract commercial interest, an Act of Congress was passed to take Smokey out of the public domain and place him under the control of the Secretary of Agriculture. The Act provided for the use of Smokey's royalties for continued education on forest fire prevention.

It is the longest running public-service campaign in U.S. history. The cartoon character of Smokey was designed by Richard Scarry for Little Golden Books. At the height of his popularity, Smokey received so much fan mail that he was assigned his own ZIP Code, 20252.

Smokey is based on an actual black bear cub who in the spring of 1950 was caught in a wildfire in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico. He had climbed a tree to escape the blaze, but his paws and hind legs had been burned. At first he was called Hotfoot Teddy and only later acquired the name Smokey. A local rancher who had been helping fight the fire took the cub home with him, but he needed veterinary aid so a New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Ranger took the bear to Santa Fe. He became a media celebrity and was sent to the National Zoo in Washington, DC. A popular song based on the story added a the because "Smokey the Bear" scanned better.

Smokey is typically depicted as a bear in a biped humanoid form wearing blue jeans and a flatbrimmed campaign hat.

Smokey is famous for his slogan:

Only YOU can prevent forest fires.

The character has been seen less in recent years as the Forest Service has changed its policy from one of absolute prevention of forest fires to one of controlled burning. Nevertheless, the Service continues to promote fire safety to citizens.

CB radio users often use the word Smokey or "bear" as code for "police", alluding to the flatbrimmed campaign hat that many state troopers wear.


Parodies of Smokey

A parody of Smokey, along with his catchphrase, was used for an episode of Dexter's Laboratory.

Songs about Smokey

"Smokey the Bear" is a popular song written in 1952 by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins. The subject is Smokey Bear. According to the Forest Service's Smokey Bear website, a the was added to keep the song's rhythm.

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