Everyone’s favorite government-sponsored bear, Smokey, officially becomes a septuagenarian this weekend. In celebration, Smokey hosted a Twitter chat, because senior citizen bears can totally tweet.
Smokey was “born” on Aug. 9, 1944, when the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council made him up. He’s since become the star of one of the longest-running government PSAs.
While Smokey is the most recognizable of all U.S. government mascots (aside from, perhaps, Uncle Sam himself), he certainly isn’t the only member of the, ah, U.S. Government Mascots Association (no, that’s not a real thing). Agencies have been creating mascots for decades to promote all sorts of causes — from an owl who’s prepared for major storms to a turtle that protects himself against online identity theft.
Agencies also utilize many of these mascots in materials made specifically for children. Because any message — no matter how worthwhile (or obscure) — must have a spokesperson, preferably an anthropomorphic one.
Here are some of the (odd) government mascots you may have missed:
Environmental Protection Agency: Thirstin’
Thirstin’ is not just a state of being but also the name of a water glass that encourages kids to be mindful of water consumption. You can even play Thirstin’ games online!
He’s primarily a character used by the EPA for educational outreach. “Glass of water with a baseball cap” is not a very catchy name for a mascot, so “Thirstin” will have to do.
U.S. Department of Agriculture: Thermy
This thermometer is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. He wants you to use thermometers to protect yourself from the dangers of undercooked food.
We would dock points here because “Thermy” is about the laziest name for a thermometer mascot, but at least it’s relevant to the cause. And he’s got friends! “BAC” (short for Bacterium) and others have joined him for previous Macy’s Day Parades and other events. Thermy, by the way, wears jersey No. 160. No coincidence that, according to the USDA, you should “cook all raw ground beef to an internal temperature of 160 °F as measured with a food thermometer.”
Federal Trade Commission: Dewie the E-Turtle
Here’s why: “Dewie’s wired, but carries his security shell no matter what he’s doing on the Internet,” the agency said at the time. Think of that — a turtle as a WiFi hotspot!
We must admit that guarding against Internet fraud doesn’t make us think, “Hey, turtles!” But the use of “E” in “E-turtle” is such a throwback to early-aughts Internet culture that we’ll let it slide.
National Weather Service: Owlie Skywarn
Perhaps the savviest of agency mascots on social media is this self-proclaimed “Hurricane enthusiast, snowman sculptor, devoted cloud watcher.” Owlie Skywarn has his own Twitter feed and Facebook profile. The nerdy owl reps the National Weather Service.
Skywarn — the owl’s family name — is also what the NWS calls its severe-weather-watching volunteer program. We imagine Owlie’s disproportionately large eyes must be an asset in spotting weather.
Energy Department: Energy Ant
Energy Ant has been around at least since the 1970s and is used by the agency to spread awareness about energy issues. (There’s also an Energy Department villain, Energy Hog, who doubles as what appears to be a Hell’s Angel. Major points for the pun here.)
Energy Ant is obviously one of the greatest of all agency mascots, because of his past life as a news reporter: In this 1970s PSA, the ant filed a live report from “Cinderella’s Disco Ball.”
Did we overlook your favorite federal government mascot? Let us know in the comments!