Capital News Service

COLLEGE PARK – As March Madness approaches, college mascots are busy getting ready for excited fans, tailgating students and historic games.

But their wildlife counterparts aren’t so lucky, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

Climate change is putting some of the nation’s most beloved college mascots in danger, including the terrapin, buffalo, wolverine and alligator, the conservation organization said in a report released Tuesday.

That could leave the universities of Maryland, Colorado, Michigan, Florida and others with endangered or even extinct animals as mascots.

“The game may soon be over… for many of our wildlife mascots unless we reduce our carbon pollution and we develop instead… new clean energy sources,” said Doug Inkley, senior scientist at the National Wildlife Federation.

The report, released in anticipation of the NCAA basketball tournament, which starts March 18, said that warming temperatures, sea level rise and extreme weather are threatening wildlife and their habitats.

For terrapins, warmer temperatures cause a greater proportion of their eggs to hatch as females, creating an imbalance that threatens their population, Inkley said. The reptiles, which live in coastal areas, also face dangers due to rising sea level.

“If we don’t do something to make the kinds of recommendations that the National Wildlife Federation has put forward… for future generations, as they are looking at our mascots… they’re going to be… thinking, ‘Wow, what were those animals? Who were those creatures?’” said Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington.

The report includes recommendations for helping these animals, including passing laws to reduce carbon pollution, transitioning to cleaner energy sources considering climate change in wildlife and natural resource management.

Edwards, a ranking member on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee criticized climate change deniers in Congress and said it was time to take action.

“I can’t wait to dig through the report and actually compare the dangers to those mascots to my brackets come Sunday,” Edwards said.

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