Smokey the Bear gets cuddly

  • WYOMING -- The truth hurts.

    Emily Guerin

Twenty-five years ago, river guides who'd mastered the art of steering boats through the Grand Canyon decided to start a magazine. It would celebrate the history of the ancient place and its band of young Colorado River runners, reveling in the job's excitement and occasional tedium and revealing the sometimes-deadly hazards of ferrying tourists through terrifying wave trains. It also discussed serious issues, such as the federal government's attempts to heal a dammed river that's turned on and off like a faucet. The magazine, the deliberately lower-cased grand canyon river guides, seldom appears predictably, but it's always a joy to read. Here are some tips from the latest issue's "10 ways to prepare for a river trip": "One week before the trip, have a yard of sand delivered to your home. Sprinkle liberally in your bed. … Have your friends form a long line. Then systematically pass the entire contents of your home out of the front and into the back door of your house. … Sit on the hood of your car while riding through the car wash. … With 27 friends standing in the shallow end of a swimming pool, practice looking nonchalant as you carry on a conversation and pee simultaneously."

Smokey Bear just got another makeover. Instead of sternly blaming us for not preventing wildfires, he's become a huggy, supportive bear, reports The New York Times. Douse a campfire safely and the huge bear -- still obviously a person in a bear suit -- emerges from the forest to wordlessly hug his approval, according to a new television ad. "We want to leverage the icon," says a spokesman at the California ad agency responsible, whatever that means, while "keeping him fresh." Smokey will be spreading his "stop wildfire" message through social media, including Twitter. In his first print ads in 1945, the bear urged using caution to prevent forest fires, and as the years went by, he called for cooperation to save Bambi and other forest creatures. More recently, Smokey has become tougher -- you might say overbearing -- pointing his big finger accusingly at the public and warning, "Only YOU can prevent wildfires." Coming soon: A Facebook app where you can get hugged by Smokey even if you aren't being particularly nice to trees.

A solemn memorial service was held recently for the estimated 50,000 bees that were killed "by an improper application of pesticide," reports Rozzell Medina of Portland organized the event, held in the parking lot of a Target store in Wilsonville, Ore., close to the place where the pesticide Safari decimated the bees. Medina announced on his Facebook page that he would bring food to share to "memorialize these fallen life forms and talk about the plight of the bees and their importance to life on Earth." A lot of ecological tragedies, he added, appear so abstract and even scary that ordinary people do not know how to respond to them.

William "Mac" Hollan, 35, of Sandpoint, Idaho, was riding his bike ahead of two friends on the Alaska Highway, halfway through an epic 2,750-mile trip to Prudhoe Bay, when the unthinkable happened. A wolf emerged from the trees and started nipping "at the bike's rear packs the way it would bite the hamstrings of a fleeing moose in the drawn-out ordeal of subduing large prey," reports Rich Landers in the Spokane Spokesman-Review." Hollan sped up, and whenever the wolf got close, he blasted it with bear spray. But the wolf loped ever closer even as the drivers of four different vehicles gawked but did not stop. When he realized a hill lay dead ahead, Hollan later said, "It was a surreal moment to realize that I was prey" and that there was no way he could beat his pursuer to the top of the incline. As Hollan got ready to jump off and use his bike as a shield, a Hummer suddenly pulled over. "I saw the panicked look on the biker's face -- as though he was about to be eaten," said driver Melanie Klassen. Another vehicle also pulled up, and as the wolf leaped on Hollan's bike, pulling at the shredded remains of his tent bag, Hollan jumped into the front passenger seat of Becky Woltjer's recreational vehicle, shaking and cussing uncontrollably, he recalled. Meanwhile, Klassen yelled at the wolf and beaned it with a water bottle, but it didn't retreat until other cars stopped and people began throwing rocks. An Environment Yukon spokeswoman called the incident "a new one for us," although a similar incident happened June 8 in British Columbia, when a wolf gave chase to a motorcyclist. And you thought the Tour de France was exciting.

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