Capitan, New Mexico is the birthplace and burial site of Smokey Bear. On May 4, 1950, a carelessly discarded cigarette started the Los Tablos blaze in the Lincoln National Forest. On May 6, a second fire, known as the Capitan Gap fire started in the same general area. Together these fires destroyed 17,000 acres of forest and grasslands. The monetary loss to private property was great but the loss to the environment was even greater.
Upon his death in 1976, at the urging of his many friends, Smokey's body was returned to his beautiful and beloved Capitan Mountains. He now rests in peace, buried in a small park which bears his name; in the heart of the Village of Capitan and in the shadow of the mountains where it all began. In 1984, Rudolph Wendelin designed a 20 cent postage stamp depicting a bear cub clinging to a burnt tree with the famous Smokey Bear emblem as a background. This was the first and only time the U.S. Postal Service has issued a postage stamp honoring an individual animal. Capitan was chosen for the first day sale of this commemorative stamp fifty years after the inception of Wendelin's poster.