The University of Arkansas announced the grand introduction of Tusk VI, the live razorback featured at sporting and pep events, on March 4. I’ll admit, despite being a Red Wolf at heart, I love Tusk, and this got me thinking: Arkansas State University needs its own version of Tusk. That’s right, we need a live red wolf.
“But Rachel,” I hear you cry, “the American red wolf is critically endangered, and according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there’s only an estimated 17-19 in the wild.”
This is a fair point. After all, how would A-State even manage to get a hold of a real red wolf? If only A-State was working to build a red wolf conservation center- oh wait, it is.
According to Red Wolves for Red Wolves, the official A-State student organization dedicated to protecting the American red wolf, the conservation center will have a grand opening sometime in 2023, although Jeff Hankins, vice president for strategic communications for ASU Systems, said “work continues to identify funding sources for the project.”
The plan for the center is to have six breeding pairs, or 12 wolves in total. Surely before a big game, a wolf could be taken down to the stadium?
Now, I understand that there are some differences between having a live pig versus a live wolf at a game. For one, Tusk is trained and starting with Tusk II, is frequently handled by humans.
While most of the red wolf population today does live in captivity (235 to be exact), they don’t have the same amount of human interaction Tusk has. If A-State were to implement a live mascot, this would have to be accounted for.
That’s the other thing, Tusk is used to traveling around and attending loud games. This theoretical live mascot wouldn’t be accustomed to this, so that would have to be taken into account as well.
But I believe there is a solution to this. Perhaps the mascot could be brought in for something like a meet-and-greet, but then return to the conservation center before the game begins. Or, there could be a camera at the center that streams footage of the wolf to the games. This would allow A-State to have a live mascot without stressing the animal.
Now, as ridiculous and silly as this sounds, I truly believe this idea has some merit (I wouldn’t write a whole opinion piece if I didn’t think it did, after all). Having a live mascot courtesy of A-State’s very own red wolf conservation center is fantastic publicity, which could cause more students to get involved with the center or encourage more donations.
Similar to Tusk, official mascot social media accounts could even be created. This is even more publicity for the center. Plus, this would encourage fan interaction with the accounts, boosting school spirit.
I will be the first to tell you, if there was a possibility I could see a real red wolf at A-State sporting events, I would be in line for many more games. Give this live mascot the same kind of “celebrity status” Tusk has and I’m sure you’d have more people showing up to games to see their favorite local celebrity.
Having a live mascot is also a great opportunity to provide education regarding not only the conservation of the red wolf, but general information about the species. At the very least, the A-State and Jonesboro community would be informed of the red wolf’s critically endangered status. The more people educated about the situation, the better.
In the end, this idea is a no-brainer. Not only would this provide excellent publicity and marketing for the campus’s new program, but it would also serve to educate the public on this truly wonderful animal. Plus, it would just be super cool to have an actual wolf at football games and be part of the schools across the nation with unique live mascots.
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