Like college basketball? Excited to fill out your March Madness bracket on Sunday? Well, here’s a pretty big college basketball-related bummer: The National Wildlife Federation put out a report Tuesday entitled “Mascot Madness” that details how climate change could obliterate some of college mascots’ real-life counterparts.
“In fact, what I would say – if you pardon the pun – is that the game may soon be over for many of our wildlife mascots unless we reduce our carbon pollution and develop new energy sources,” warned Doug Inkley, a senior scientist for the D.C.-based group.
The animals in trouble span the country and the globe, according to the report.
Inkley used one particularly strong rivalry to prove the point. “Wolverines are tenacious animals, like the sports teams at the University of Michigan, but they rely on deep snowpack for denning and to raise their young,” he said. “This is disappearing as a result of climate change.” Meanwhile, in nearby Ohio, the buckeye – which is the state's official tree and Ohio State University’s mascot – is finding that Ohio is no longer the most suitable climate to grow in and is high-tailing it to Michigan. “So this rivalry between Ohio and Michigan, Ohio State University and the University of Michigan, could become even more intense, if you will, as the buckeyes invade the wolverine territory,” Inkley said.
Other creatures who may face problems include red wolves of North Carolina State Wolfpack fame, whose coastal habitat could be destroyed. Gators – the mascot of the No. 1-ranked University of Florida – face a similar habitat problem. And the terrapins of the University of Maryland, which also live in low-lying areas, additionally could experience a sex-ratio imbalance because of the heat. “They face a reproductive threat,” explained Inkley. “When the terrapin eggs are incubated and the temperatures become warmer because of climate change, a greater proportion of eggs hatch as females.”
Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., the ranking member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee (and huge college basketball fan), spoke to reporters about the study and suggested that Americans make it a part of picking their March Madness teams.
“I want to encourage you to look at the National Wildlife Federation report, match it up with those brackets, see those species that are in danger because of our changing climate,” she said, noting that she would be taking her own advice. “I can’t wait to dig through the report and actually compare the dangers to those mascots to my brackets come Sunday.”