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Climate Change Could Affect Your Favorite College Mascot, So Root For Them Now

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FLORIDA GATORS MASCOT
The Florida Gator mascot lounges on the court during the Final Four semifinal basketball game in Indianapolis, Saturday, April 1, 2006. (AP Photos/Ann Heisenfelt) | ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Alumni and die-hard fans of college sports tend to get really fired up about their favorite team. But what if fans found out that their beloved mascot's real-life counterpart was threatened by climate change?

A new report by the National Wildlife Federation, "Mascot Madness: How Climate Change is Hurting School Spirit," is bringing attention to the threats climate change pose on wildlife by relating the subject to college sports. The report highlights a diverse group of animals and species -- some already endangered and threatened -- whose food, habitat and reproductive success will be impacted by climate change, including increased extreme weather events, a shifting climate and melting snowpack.

"We have a new version of ‘March Madness’: Extreme weather fueled by climate change, deeper droughts, and intensifying wildfires," says Doug Inkley, National Wildlife Federation senior scientist and lead author of "Mascot Madness". “From wolverines to gators, species that have spent countless centuries adapting a home court advantage are now watching the rules of the game changed before their eyes by industrial carbon pollution."

In addition to explaining how your favorite species and mascot will be affected, the report offers solutions. These include passing effective laws to reduce carbon and air pollution, investing in renewable energy sources that are wildlife-friendly and factoring climate change into natural resource management.

Without further adieu, let's put aside the competition for a minute and see how climate change will be uniting all of our favorite teams at the end of the day.

  • Wilcats
    AP
    Several wildcats -- like the Canada lynx, ocelot and Florida panther -- are all at risk from climate change. For example, sea level rise could wipe out both ocelot and Florida panther habitat, and the lynx depends on a deep snow cover that could diminish with a warming climate.

    Universities with wildcat mascots include the University of Arizona, Villanova University, Kansas State University, the University of New Hampshire, Weber State University, Davidson College and the University of Kentucky.

    (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
  • Lions and Tigers
    Flickr
    Even majestic and fierce lions and tigers are not immune to climate change. In Bangladesh, for example, rising sea levels are already taking a toll on a mangrove forest that's home to hundreds of tigers. And in the Serengeti ecosystem, located in east-central Africa, lions lost a third of their population from 1994 to 2001 when extreme drought followed by heavy rains caused widespread disease and death.

    Schools with tiger mascots include the University of Memphis, the University of Missouri, Louisiana State University, Clemson University, Auburn University and Occidental College. Columbia University and Loyola Marymount are home to the Lions.

    (Photo by Koshy Koshy/Flickr Creative Commons)
  • Rams
    Flickr
    Though some bighorn sheep populations have recovered from near decimation because of disease from domestic sheep, competition for forage and other factors, they're still at risk from climate change. Rapidly melting snowpack, warming temperatures and less rainfall could impact reproductive cycles and reduce the survival of their young.

    Colorado State University, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Virginia Commonwealth University and Winston-Salem State University are home to the Rams.

    (Photo by Glacier NPS/Flickr Creative Commons)
  • Bears
    Flickr
    Bears are spending less time hibernating with warming temperatures and shortening winters, which increases the risk of human-and-bear conflicts. Additionally, intense drought has left bears hungry, causing them to venture near campsites and communities for "human" food.

    Many universities have a bear mascot, including Baylor University, the University of California-UCLA, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Montana, the University of Northern Colorado, Rocky Mountain College, and Adams State University.

    (Photo by Denali National Park and Preserve/Flickr Creative Commons)
  • Bison
    AP
    The biggest threat from climate change to bison, also known as the American buffalo, is food quality. They depend on healthy grassland for survival, but grassland plants in warmer regions have less protein than those is cooler regions. Adult males weigh about 20 pounds less for every 1 degree Fahrenheit temperature increase.

    The University of Colorado, Bucknell University, North Dakota State University and Howard University boast this mascot.

    (AP Photo/Janie Osborne)
  • Wolverines
    Flickr
    Wolverines are disappearing from the lower 48 states with a remaining population of 250 to 300 individuals. They rely on deep snowpack to raise their young, and climate change will undoubtedly not fare well for them.

    The University of Michigan claims the wolverine as their mascot.

    (Photo by Tambako The Jaguar/Flickr Creative Commons)
  • Wolves
    Flickr
    The red wolf, an endangered species that's only found along the North Carolinian coastal plain, is at risk from sea level rise and stronger hurricanes. Farther north, the Arctic wolf is already declining as extreme weather reduces their prey numbers and makes food hard to find.

    The "Wolfpack" is North Carolina State University's mascot.

    (Photo by Red Wolf Recovery Program/Flickr Creative Commons)
  • Crops and Trees
    Flickr
    Though crops and plants aren't the most intimidating mascots, they're not immune to climate change. Wheat is already withering due to drought; corn yields could severely decrease due to extreme heat; and orange production may drop as water becomes scarcer. Enjoy them while you can!

    Ohio State University, Wichita State University, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and Syracuse University uses crop and tree names as their mascot.

    (Photo by Guilhem Vellut/Flickr Creative Commons)
  • Birds
    Flickr
    Birds of a feather will certainly feel the effects of climate change. Sea level rise, for example, is threatening duck habitat, like estuaries and coastal marshes. Additionally, peregrine falcons chicks are drowning in their nests from extreme rain events and changing weather patterns.

    The University of Oregon, the Air Force Academy and Bowling Green State University are home to the Ducks and Falcons.

    (Photo by David Merrett/Flickr Creative Commons)
  • Reptiles
    AP
    Alligators and terrapins are at risk from sea level rise invading their coastal habitats, and from rising temperatures affecting the sex ratio of their young. Warmer temperatures cause more male alligators to hatch, while the opposite effect is exhibited in terrapins.

    The University of Florida represents gators and the University of Maryland represents terrapins.

    (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
  • Extreme Weather
    Getty Images
    Climate change causes for more extreme weather patterns, like intense drought, heat waves, increased wildfires and stronger hurricanes. These weather events pose a risk to both humans and wildlife.

    The University of Miami Hurricanes, Kent State University Golden Flashes, the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames and the Iowa State University Cyclones all bear titles that are expected to increase in intensity and frequency from climate change, so keep an eye out for these teams. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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