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May 13, 2017

Let's give Pennsylvania a very cool mascot: The Eastern hellbender

Environment Wildlife
Easter hellbender Rick Callahan of AP/PhillyVoice illustration

The eastern hellbender, as interpreted by PhillyVoice staffer Daniel Craig.

I love my home state of Pennsylvania. I also acknowledge that, when it comes to presenting ourselves to the nation/world/universe, we can be rather bland.

Take a look at the state's official mascots: Deer for animals, milk for beverages and literally "Pennsylvania" for official state song. One guy wanted to add apples to the list. If we were a Tinder profile, our hobbies would be sitting, vacuuming and scrapbooking. Other states would swipe left to avoid death by boredom.

That's why I'm officially endorsing state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Williamsport, in his campaign to give the state an official amphibian: the EASTERN HELLBENDER (fire emojis, guitar lick).

Yes, the all caps, emojis and music were my additions. Eastern Hellbender, however, is in fact the very badass name of the creature Yaw wants to represent the state.

What's a Hellbender? It's the largest salamander in North America — getting as long as two feet — that KICKS DOWN THE DOOR AND RAISES HELL are seen throughout the Appalachian region, feed primarily on crayfish and fish, and live under large rocks located in cold, fast-flowing stream, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

As Yaw explained in his co-sponsorship memo about designating the Hellbender, these amphibians ARE JUST GETTING THIS PARTY STARTED ARE YOU READY PENNSYLVANIA symbolize an environmentally-friendly mindset.

"Native to certain areas where water quality is pristine, the Eastern Hellbender serves as an indicator species due to its sensitivity to poor water quality and pollution," Yaw wrote to fellow lawmakers. "Because the Eastern Hellbender exemplifies what is good about Pennsylvania's waterways, it is the perfect selection to become the official State Amphibian."

Kidding aside: Yaw's bill, crafted with the help of a group of young conservationists, notes that the hellbender is already endangered in Maryland, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana because of adverse conditions, and is being threatened in Pennsylvania.

"The Eastern hellbender population is drastically declining due to poor water quality in Pennsylvania's rivers and streams," reads the bill, which has been referred to the state government committee.

So call and email your state representatives and senators. Not just to make Pennsylvania cool, but for the sake of the hellbender, the environment and rock and roll.