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Lions, Tigers, Bears: Report says March Madness Mascots at Risk

PHOTO: Roc Panther, the University of Pittsburgh's mascot, stands on the panther statue on campus. The panther is one species cited in a National Wildlife Federation report about how climate change is affecting wildlife species. Photo credit: University of Pittsburgh
PHOTO: Roc Panther, the University of Pittsburgh's mascot, stands on the panther statue on campus. The panther is one species cited in a National Wildlife Federation report about how climate change is affecting wildlife species. Photo credit: University of Pittsburgh
March 14, 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Whether it’s the Pitt Panther, Penn State's Nittany Lion or Bucknell's Bucky Bison, mascots are the faces of colleges and universities across Pennsylvania.

But a new report shows how some of the real-life inspirations for these school spirit-builders may be at risk.

Mascot Madness, a study released by the National Wildlife Federation, examines how environmental factors can be the toughest opponents of animals in the wild.

"It could be game-over for many of the wildlife mascots, unless we reduce our carbon pollution that's causing climate change, and unless we develop new, clean energy sources," says Doug Inkley, a senior scientist with the NWF.

The report says, for example, that the quality of food sources for bison can be affected by warming temperatures, resulting in smaller bison.

Also, the Eastern Panther is considered one of the world's most endangered cats, and is especially vulnerable.

NWF says mountain lions, such as Penn State's famous Nittany Lion, have not yet been negatively affected by climate change, but steps to curb it will benefit all wildlife.

Inkley says in terms of options, the long-term solution to global warming is already part of the landscape.

"It is a big challenge, this climate change, and what we need to do about it is, we need to develop clean energy sources – wind power, solar power," he says.

Inkley adds using college mascots as part of the study is timely during college basketball's highest-profile month.

"It may be fun to address this spring March Madness and look at the mascots, but it is a very serious issue,” he stresses. “We can do something about it. We must address the issue of climate change."


Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA