Smokey Bear, probably the most famous bear in the history of the United States, was a cub first found cowering an injured in a tree after a 17,000 acre forest fire in the Lincoln National Forest near Capitan. Starting in 1950, Smokey was selected by the U.S. Forest Service and the Advertising Council as a spokesman and symbol for fire prevention campaigns all across the country. Smokey served in this capacity for the rest of his life, even after his death in 1975. He is buried in Smokey Bear State Park in Capitan.
The American Black Bear (Ursus americanus), or Oso Negro is found from Alaska to northern Mexico and occurs widely in wooded areas throughout the state. They are omnivorous, feeding mostly on a wide variety of plants but also on animals (mostly small rodents) in addition to carrion. Large individuals can weigh in excess of 400 pounds. Females usually breed every two years and two or three, rarely four cubs, are born after a seven- or eight-month gestation period.
The bear’s head appears as the symbol of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. It is a protected game animal and may be hunted only by license in certain parts of the state and year.
The American Black Bear was selected as the state’s official animal on February 8, 1963 by the New Mexico Legislature.