US Forest Service mascot and New Mexico native Smokey the Bear celebrates his 67th birthday today.


In a special Huffington Post column today, Smokey offers the same advice he always has.

"My message has always been about being careful when you use fire," he writes. "And that message still holds true. Today, nearly 9 out of 10 wildfires are caused by people. That means 9 out of 10 wildfires can still be prevented."

Smokey has been a staple since 1944, when he appeared in his first poster. A Forest Service message from before Smokey was around suggests the agency needed some work with its PR. Smokey's first appearance is much more humble.

The real-life Smokey was rescued in the 1950 Captain Gap fire in the Lincoln National Forest. While the Forest Service had already come up with the cartoon mascot at the time, the rescued black bear became its living mascot.

Homer C. Pickens, the then-assistant director of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, took care of the Smokey until he was shipped off to the National Zoo in Washington DC. Smokey stayed in the nation's capital until his death in 1976.

But the cartoon mascot lives on as prominent New Mexicans are paying their respects today:

@SenatorTomUdallTom Udall Happy 67th Birthday to #NMnative Smokey Bear! Remember, only you can prevent wildfires. #NMfire