WILDWOOD, MO (KPLR) - Someone stole Smokey Bear from the entrance to Rockwoods Reservation. The bear is an important part of the sign that warns people about fire dangers. Dan Zarlenga, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Conservation, said, “We’re disappointed this happened.”
He said Smokey Bear is popular and important to parks across the nation. Zarlenga added, “It’s reminded a generation of kids and adults to be careful with fire and do the right thing and being careful with fire.”
That’s something people in western U.S. states know all too well, wildfires are raging there.
A splintered post shows where Smokey once stood until earlier this month. This is not the first time he’s been taken. People have posted messages on the conservation department’s Facebook page about the missing bear. Folks are not happy. Tim Noel was at Rockwoods Tuesday afternoon, “I’m sure somebody stole it to just be stupid to be dumb just a dumb prank.”
Prank or not, Smokey Bears are not cheap. They cost about one thousand dollars. The state may get a more durable model next time. Zarlenga said, “A cutout steel figure that might be harder to steal.”
Smokey bear has been a popular TV spokesman for decades, he’s 71-years-old this month. His message is enduring. Patty Larash, a park-goer said, “It’s just the important of being responsible so enjoy the wonderful things in nature but be responsible.”
Outdoor lovers said it’s time to return the bear. Larash said, “Bring back Smokey, yeah.”
Officials were hopeful they can replace Smokey if is not returned.