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Hunter’s Corner: 70 years of Smokey Bear

Last modified: 7/17/2014 12:40:51 AM
August 9, 1944 was the start of the creation of Smokey Bear (“Smokey the Bear” was a song). The Advertising Council created the slogan “Remember … Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires.”

The living symbol of Smokey Bear was an American black bear cub that was trapped in the 1950 Capitan Gap fire that burned 17,000 acres in the Lincoln National Forest in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico. The bear cub did what all bear cubs are taught to do in case of danger – climb a tree. The cub’s paws and hind legs had been burned.

According to the New Mexico State Forestry Division, a group of soldiers from Fort Bliss discovered the injured cub and took him back to camp where they named him Hotfoot Teddy. There is some dispute as to which family nursed him back to health. But you can imagine in 1950 that the story, when picked up by national news services, created quite the buzz. Soon after his recovery, he was flown to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., via an overnight stay at a St. Louis zoo where a special room had been prepared for him. His arrival at the National Zoo was a joyous occasion, including Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and media.

Smokey lived at the National Zoo for 26 years existing on a diet of trout, bluefish and, for a special treat, peanut butter sandwiches. Upon his death, Smokey’s remains were returned to Capitan 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.” In his heyday, Smokey received up to 13,000 letters a week and in 1964 the United States Postal Service created his own unique zip code.

Smokey eventually was paired with a female bear dubbed Goldie Bear, but to no avail. They eventually placed another orphaned bear cub from the Lincoln Forest as an adopted bear. Typical Washington spin. The fictional Smokey Bear is administrated by three entities: the U.S. Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters, and the Ad Council.

Black bears in New Hampshire have two groups looking out for their wellbeing. First is Andy Timmons, bear project leader biologist for N.H. Fish and Game. Timmons took over when Eric Orff retired. Orff was the bear project leader when the bear population was at its lowest point around 1985. It was an uphill struggle that required suspending bear hunting for a while. The current bear population goals were established in 2005 and will continue until 2015 when they will be revisited. In Regions North and Central, the goal is to stabilize. The White Mountain Region’s goal is to decrease. In Regions Southwest-1, Southwest-2 and Southeast, the goal is to increase.

The other agency involved with our bear population is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Timmons’s territory is this state, and he can’t be in more than one place at a time. Agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service serve as a backstop to cover troublesome bears.

The RSA’s governing bears is pretty specific in prohibiting the feeding of bears. Sows teach cubs how and where to feed, which is why a fed bear is a dead bear. This is a terrible waste of a valuable resource. I think Fish and Game’s Law Enforcement Division should adopt a more aggressive approach in enforcing the statutes.

Hunter education

The clock is ticking on those who need to take a hunter education class. Hunter education and bow hunter education have two components. The first is either classroom or on-line classes. The second is the exam and field day exercise. If you have your hunter education certificate, this will be your last opportunity to take a stand-alone bow hunter course. Starting in 2015, the courses will be combined and when successfully completed, the hunter will receive both hunter and bow hunter certificates.

“Course availability is always very limited in September and October, so summer is your best bet to be sure of getting in a course,” N.H. Fish and Game Hunter Education Coordinator Josh Mackay said. If you have already completed the online course, sign up for the required field day now. “As we get into the fall, the number of field days will be limited. After October, no field days will be offered until the spring. And don’t forget – taking the online course does not guarantee you will find a space in a field day.”

Those hunters who purchased an apprentice hunting license last year must take hunter education before they can purchase a hunting license this year. The apprentice hunting license allows people to hunt under the guidance of an experienced hunter, without first taking a hunter education course. You can purchase the apprentice license once in your lifetime. It is available only through the Fish and Game office in Concord.

(Bob Washburn can be reached at hunterscorner@aol.com.)


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