The Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary had rather humble beginnings, when, in 1963, a small bear became the first official resident. The University of California at Davis Veterinary Department had contacted Gordon Brong, Folsom Park Superintendent, seeking a safe home for a cub that had been orphaned and burned in a forest fire.
Gordon had been keeping several deer and a coyote in an area around the parks’ office and visitors often would come to see them. A bear would necessitate a more substantial cage. Gordon managed to persuade the city to provide space and local service clubs built a cage where “Smokey” joined the other animals to create what would be the Folsom Zoo.
Smokey became famous when the U.S. government contended only the “Smokey” known for forest fire prevention could use that name. The community rallied behind the Folsom Smokey and worldwide publicity brought even more support. Eventually the government relented and Smokey retained his name. Smokey passed away in 1984.