A North Carolina mountain fire department said its prized 6-foot-tall Smokey Bear sign has been returned days after it was stolen.

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The Broad River Fire and Rescue Department said in a Facebook post that the 6-foot-tall sign, which features the cartoon bear and warns of the fire danger level in the area, was stolen from its usual location at the side of North Carolina Highway 9 sometime between Thursday night and Saturday morning.

A $1,000 reward was offered for information leading to Smokey's return.

The fire department confirmed the sign was recovered after hiker Sarah Thomas found Smokey leaning against a tree near Shope Creek Trail Head in the Riceville community on New Year's Day.

"Shortly before lunch today we picked Smokey up and plan on doing some modifications to hopeful discourage anyone from doing this again," the department wrote in a Facebook post Monday. "The Fire Danger portion of the sign is still missing but can be replaced."

The department said the person or persons behind Smokey's bear-napping remain unknown.