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Real March Madness as Lions and Tigers and Bears Face Threats

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PHOTO: Droughts driven by climate change are already threatening the reproductive health of ocelots and sea level rise is expected to wipe out some of the ocelot's coastal habitat. Photo credit: Mike Fisher
PHOTO: Droughts driven by climate change are already threatening the reproductive health of ocelots and sea level rise is expected to wipe out some of the ocelot's coastal habitat. Photo credit: Mike Fisher
March 14, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas – As fans across Texas get ready to root on their favorite teams for March Madness, new research shows mascot namesakes, such as lions and tigers and bears, are facing real threats from climate change.

Doug Inkley, a senior scientist with the National Wildlife Federation, says NWF researchers found that the trend to more weather extremes is having a negative impact on critical habitat.

"It could be game over,” he says, “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 – wind power, solar power."

In addition to developing clean energy and reducing carbon pollution, Inkley stresses a third part of the solution is to make sure that climate change is taken into account when it comes to wildlife and natural resource management.

Among the wildlife mascots featured prominently in the report are bears.

And as fans of the Baylor Bears watch to see if they'll make the big dance, Inkley says bears in the wild have been left desperately hungry by the consequences of climate change, including drought.

"Climate change is pushing these species to the edge of their ability to survive, and they're forced into human areas to find food,” he says. “It puts these bears at much greater risk."

The study also details the impact on wild cats, which are losing ground to climate change.

That includes the ocelot, which used to roam statewide and in states to the east, but in the U.S. are now only found in extreme southern Texas.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TX