A size 60 in jeans, Smokey Bear stacks up as one of the most recognized figures in the United States. And of course, it only makes sense that Smokey attends Warner College.
Conor McCormick, fish wildlife and conservation biology major, has been playing Smokey Bear for the last two years at the Canyon Lakes Ranger District. Each Christmas season, Canyon Lakes holds a tree sale offering an opportunity not only to keep the forest healthy, but a chance to see Smokey Bear in action.
McCormick started his job, which includes Smokey, at the Forest Service Visitor Center in August 2015. After taking phone calls and doing some recreational planning, he assumed the role of Smokey that December.
McCormick says the families that visit him each year are his favorite part of the job. “One girl ran up to me and said she was more excited to see me than Santa, and proceeded to sing the Smokey Bear song and I just started to dance, you could just see how happy everyone was.” Each year he gets to see families come back generation after generation to get a picture with Smokey, “It’s a really cool way to see how families get involved with natural resources.”
On Choosing his Career path, a love for animals.
Being Smokey and working for the Forest Service has allowed McCormick to blend his love of wildlife and knowledge of natural resources. “Working with the Forest Service has been an extension of my education through Warner College,” he explained, “It’s a way to apply what I’m learning in class directly to what I’m doing.”
Originally from downtown Chicago, McCormick has always had a love for animals, despite his Dad’s allergies. He wasn’t able to have pets as a kid but would find ways to take care of his friends’ dogs, go to the zoo, and participate in the junior park ranger programs during the summers.
When he visited Warner College, it felt like a natural fit, one where he could learn about wildlife while applying those skills outside of the classroom. “My favorite part of Warner College is being able to learn from professors who actually work in the field.” With a minor in Zoology, McCormick was able to go to Ecuador with Dr. Funk, professor of biology, who recently discovered a new frog species. McCormick finds that the professors availability, research, and genuine interest have made his time at Warner College a positive one.
Starting this April, McCormick will be a Limited Condition Ranger at Boyd Lake State Park, working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. In the future he plans to pursue a career in predator reintroduction within Colorado, “I really love Colorado and I’d really love to stay.” McCormick plans to continue being Smokey; you can catch him next year at the Canyon Lakes Ranger District tree sale.