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Trump now says he misspoke as he stood side-by-side with Putin. Also on the Wednesday rundown: A Senate committee looks at the latest attempt to weaken the Endangered Species Act; and public input is being sought on Great Lakes restoration.

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Report: March Madness Mascots Face Bigger Challenges Off the Court

PHOTO: From the Arizona Wildcats to New Mexico's Lobos, mascots are the faces of colleges and universities across the Southwest. A new report from the National Wildlife Federation shows how some of the real-life inspirations for these school spirit-builders may be at risk. Photo courtesy of University of Arizona.
PHOTO: From the Arizona Wildcats to New Mexico's Lobos, mascots are the faces of colleges and universities across the Southwest. A new report from the National Wildlife Federation shows how some of the real-life inspirations for these school spirit-builders may be at risk. Photo courtesy of University of Arizona.
March 18, 2014

PHOENIX - From the Arizona Wildcats to New Mexico's Lobos, mascots are the faces of colleges and universities across the Southwest. 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, according to NWF senior scientist Doug Inkley.

"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," Inkley warned.

The report says, for example, that the quality of food sources for endangered wildcats such as the ocelot and jaguar can be affected by drought linked to warming temperatures. Arizona's wildcat mascot is based on the bobcat, which has not yet been negatively affected, but the NWF says steps to curb climate change will benefit all wildlife.

Inkley said warming temperatures and resulting droughts can have a severe effect on wildlife already challenged by shrinking habitat.

"Climate change is pushing these species to the edge of their ability to survive, and they're forced into human areas to find food."

Inkley said using college mascot animals 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 said. "We can do something about it; we must address the issue of climate change."

As an example, the NWF report mentions the bighorn sheep ram, mascot of Colorado State University. The report says rapidly melting snowpacks and less rainfall could throw off the animal's reproductive cycle and challenge the survival of their young.

The report is at NWF.org.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ