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Desert Diary
Mammals/Smokey the Bear


A third of the land and about 700 million acres in the US are covered by forests that provide beauty, recreation, fuel, food, wildlife habitat, and valuable ecological services, including transforming and storing the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, and production of oxygen, vital to us.

Protecting these forests from wildfires is a big job for a bear-but no problem when he's a bear who is an authority on forest fires. On May 9, 1950, a frightened, badly burned 4-pound cub was found by fire fighters, clinging to a charred tree in the mountains near Capitan, New Mexico. A holocaust had raged, driven by 70 mile per hour winds. Little Smokey the Bear was treated in Santa Fe and given a permanent home at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Smokey died in 1976, and he is buried in a small park in the heart of Capitan. His successor, another American Black Bear, carries on the work of fire control under new guidelines that include judicious use of controlled burning, but he still reminds us that, "Only You Can Prevent A Forest Fire".
pen and ink

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Florence E. Schwein, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.