Smokey Bear Campaign to Prevent Forest Fires

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Wildlife conservation is a tale as old as time. Who knows, maybe if there had been conservationists 65 million years ago, we would still have dinosaurs roaming the earth today. While the fact that animals go extinct is not old news, do people really understand why wildlife is so important? What steps need to be taken to preserve wildlife? How can one become involved in wildlife conservation? These are all important questions that need to be explored in order to help maintain the delicate ecosystem on Earth. Wildlife plays a vital role in this fragile ecosystem and without humans that care about the preservation of wildlife, any and all species of animals are a possible victim of extinction. It goes without being said that it is impossible for animals to advocate for themselves. This is why awareness and speaking up for what you believe in is imperative, especially when it comes to animal rights. In the image above, you see a variety of animals commonly perceived as wild animals. You can see some animals such as the rhino and elephant are looking beyond the scope of the painting. Perhaps they are looking towards their environment or their herd. However, 5/9 of the animals are looking directly towards the viewer. They are almost asking “and what are YOU doing to help us?”.

This image was found on the African Wildlife Association’s website. This website is an amazing tool for anybody interested in learning about animals and which ones are going extinct and what the public can do about it. On their wildlife conservation page it even says “Protecting an astounding diversity of species. (Humans included. ). . . . Critical to protecting these vital ecosystems are people. Sharing land across the continent, local communities and wildlife often live alongside each other, leading to struggles for space and water. If people and wildlife learn to live together — inside and outside of protected areas — the future for all will thrive. ” (AFA) This form of direct “accusation” is no new idea. Created in 1944, the Smokey Bear Wildfire Prevention campaign is the longest-running public service advertising campaign in U. S. history, educating generations of Americans about their role in preventing wildfires. The scene begins with an all-american family enjoying a nice toasty fire. They haphazardly put out the fire and go to bed. In the blink of an eye, the entire forest is burned down and the animals inhabiting it are nowhere to be seen.

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The camera pans over to a wooden post with Smokey Bear’s face on it, reciting their famous slogan. Smokey’s original catchphrase was “Smokey Says – Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires. ” In 1947, it became “Remember. . . Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires. ” In 2001, it was again updated to its current version of “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires”. The wording of these catchphrases places pressure on the people of America to make sure they are conscious of the repercussions their actions have. While this advertisement is known far and wide throughout North America, what most people probably do not know is that Smokey the Bear was, in fact, a real bear. One day in 1950, a fire was spotted by a ranger in a forest in New Mexico. The first crew discovered a huge wildfire sweeping through the forest. Word spread and soon more and more crews were coming to help. Forest rangers, local crews from New Mexico and Texas, and the New Mexico State Game Department set out to gain control of the raging wildfire. While the crew was fighting the fire, they received a report of a lone bear cub seen wandering near the fire line. The firefighters were soon caught directly in the path of the firestorm, along with the bear cub. He managed to get out alive with burns to his paws and legs. The crew rescued him and moved him to safety. The public fell in love with the tiny little bear saved.

In 1952, Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins wrote the popular anthem and started the campaign that’s still running 66 years later. When it comes to animal conservation, some people, like Alexander Kopatz, take a less passive approach. When word arose that there was a growing bear population near a farm in Norway, the locals were quickly spooked. Immediately, the farmers most immediately threatened wanted the bears “taken care of”. While not yet on the endangered species list, brown bears are getting closer and closer. Because they often live in forests surrounding human communities, brown bears have fallen prey to hunting and other conflicts with humans. More specifically, human-bear conflicts occur frequently in the Pasvik Valley, Norway. Kopatz thought there was a better way to investigate this issue further. Him and his team decided they wanted to set up hair traps to detect brown bears moving near human settlements and livestock. They set up 20 hair traps near a farm with frequent bear sightings. The study area had one area near the farm and one adjacent area with no settlements. Based on reports of brown bear observations during the study period, the local wildlife management authority assumed that at least two individuals were roaming in the area around the farm. After discussing and reviewing, the team came to the conclusion the bears seem to favor the neighboring and more pristine forests even though they are in close distance to the farm. It has been reported earlier that brown bears tend to avoid human settlements and structures and its for these reasons that Kopatz and his study convinced local authorities to not euthanize the brown bears in Pasvik Valley, Norway. Not only did he do this, but he found a new, relatively cheap and easy way to track animals in forests surround human settlements. Hair trapping is non-intrusive and non-rewarding for the bears. This makes it easily justified and more ethical than simply removing or killing the bears.

Both of the images mentioned earlier place an accusatory tone upon the reader. The first being more subtle while the second directly telling the reader it is up to them to prevent wildfires which connects to not destroying animal habitats (deforestation). While this photo and advertisement certainly spread a good message, they are few and far between. To most people, wildlife conservation is one of those things commonly put in the “not my job” column of priorities. That being said, there is a community of people who dedicate their lives to protecting the lives of animals everywhere, such as Alexander Kopatz. Without people like this, the animal population on the earth would deteriorate exponentially.

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Smokey Bear Campaign to Prevent Forest Fires. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 14, 2024, from
“Smokey Bear Campaign to Prevent Forest Fires.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
Smokey Bear Campaign to Prevent Forest Fires. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 Jul. 2024].
Smokey Bear Campaign to Prevent Forest Fires [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 15 [cited 2024 Jul 14]. Available from:

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