PETA eyes ousting of Kennesaw State’s live owl mascot
by Rachel Gray
February 24, 2014 04:00 AM | 4514 views | 13 13 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kennesaw State’s live mascot, Sturgis, keeps a watchful eye as the Owls’ football coach, Brian Bohannon, speaks about the program’s inaugural signing class, which totaled 29.
<br>Staff photo by Kelly J. Huff
Kennesaw State’s live mascot, Sturgis, keeps a watchful eye as the Owls’ football coach, Brian Bohannon, speaks about the program’s inaugural signing class, which totaled 29.
Staff photo by Kelly J. Huff
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KENNESAW — A local university’s use of a live predatory bird as a mascot has garnered negative attention from a national activist group.

After sending repeated requests to Kennesaw State University, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has posted an action alert on its website where concerned people can send a letter petitioning the university to ground the live owl.

The controversial bird is a great horned owl, which is expected to grow to six pounds with a five-foot wing span and live up to 60 years.

KSU’s live mascot Sturgis, named after Horace Sturgis who served as the institution’s first president, made its debut in the second annual “Flight Night” in October.

In an announcement by PETA about the effort to end Sturgis’ public career, the group said an arena packed with yelling fans, flashing lights and a booming sound system is no place for a solitary, nocturnal owl.

“We should know better than to exploit animals for cheap amusement — especially at an institution of higher learning,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “PETA is calling on Kennesaw State to teach students the important lesson that animals belong in their natural habitats, not in a basketball arena.”

In a letter sent to PETA in October, Athletic Director Vaughn Williams said everyone at KSU is fully committed to Sturgis’ safety and well-being.

He added the university and Sturgis’ trainer would never put the owl in harm’s way.

Live animal versus costumed mascots

The idea to have a live mascot began a few years ago, and the discussion was renewed when the school’s first football program was announced. KSU’s inaugural football season kicks off in fall 2015.

The final decision was made by Williams and KSU President Dan Papp.

Live mascots can be a popular symbol of school pride. At Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, the school’s live eagle mascot, Freedom, flies across the field at graduations and sporting events.

Some live mascots have been a traditions for decades. Near the main gate of Sanford Stadium at the University of Georgia in Athens are marble vaults were the remains of past mascots are enshrined.

The Georgia Bulldogs’ mascot, Uga the VII, died in 2009 at 4 years old of a congenital heart condition. His predecessor Uga the VI, died of a similar issue the year before.

The deaths promoted the Georgia chapter of PETA to ask the next pure white English bulldog be a robot. But for the past two years, another bulldog named Russ has served as the college’s live mascot.

A year before KSU adopted Sturgis, the university unveiled a new look for their costumed mascot, Scrappy the Owl.

PETA is in favor of costumed mascots.

Raising, training a live mascot

According to PETA’s announcement this week, birds at sporting events have slammed into windows, broken loose from their handlers and even been kicked by players.

Sturgis, who was hatched in New York, lives at Winding Wood Ranch in Commerce, about 80 miles northeast of Kennesaw, under the care of bird trainer Daniel Walthers.

Walthers is no stranger to training animals. Rise and Conquer, the Baltimore Ravens’ two live mascots, are a product of his teaching.

At the time Sturgis was first introduced to the KSU community, Walthers said a live mascot’s training includes getting the animal used to things that are commonplace for sports fans, like pompoms, blow horns and fireworks.

In the October letter to PETA, Williams said he hopes the mascot becomes more than just a symbol of the university, but an educational tool.

“Many within our community will be introduced to a species they will not normally encounter,” Williams said. “The spotlight on Sturgis will contribute to the public’s appreciation for Sturgis and other owls, presenting opportunities both to raise awareness about owls and to raise funds to help replace owl and bird habitats that have been destroyed by human developments.”

Comments
(13)
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anonymous
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February 25, 2014
We all eat here lamb, chicken, cow, buffalo, bird, squirrel, etc. and don't have a problem with that at all. We don't eat here cat, dog, guinea pig, hamster, etc. Duck Dynasty hunts, but they have dogs as pets. Explain this one please. Here in the good ole US of A, we get to decide which animals are acceptable to eat and which ones are not acceptable to eat? Eat Fido? Eat Kitty-kitty? What is the difference? Please let me know.
MAY-RETTA SURVIVOR
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February 24, 2014
I belong to "PETA":

P-eople

E-ating

T-asty

A-nimals

Yum!
Scrappy30101
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February 24, 2014
PETA has never been to a KSU Basketball game. I don't think 42 fans can make enough noise to upset the owl...
Scrappy30101
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February 24, 2014
Where is PETP (People for the Ethical Treatment of Plants) and their fight for Stanford and that crazy tree running around? Enough is Enough- someone needs to plant that reckless tree before someone gets hurt!

I have spoken with the caregiver fro Sturgis- that owl is as happy as a clam. He even when sledding during the ice storm... I didnt even get to go sledding!!!
Enough PC
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February 24, 2014
PETA (People eating tasty animals) need to crawl back under a rock and stay there until they start working to help spay and neuter pets, start fighting to shut down puppy mills, slip shod pet stores and dog fighting.

Seems you never see them associated with any of these serious issues.
Just Wait
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February 24, 2014
This bird will be better cared for than any bird in the wild. Come on PETA, find something better to spend your time on.
Katie KSU Alumni
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February 24, 2014
This is the same group that petitioned the State of Georgia to erect a 10 foot monument on the side of the road for chickens that were killed in a truck accident in Gainesville Come on Peta I love animals too but you guys have a history of taking things too far. If you want people to take you seriously get all the kooks out of your organization. Leave KSU and their owl alone already.
melanieb.
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February 24, 2014
If they are going to go after KSU then go after UGA bulldog, the Auburn war eagle, Navy with their goat, Colorado buffalo and so on!! Good God PETA stop already!
IceDogg
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February 24, 2014
Go away, PETA.

(However, in your honor, I'm going to have a nice, big, juicy bacon cheeseburger for lunch today. Mmmmm.... Animals.)
anonymous
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February 25, 2014
Most of the people that are not in the front lines of PETA do not object to your bacon cheeseburger, they object to the inhumane method of slaughter and the lack of laws for humane slaughter. And, yes, a cow was slaughtered for your burger and a pig was slaughtered for your bacon. While you are chowing down on your tasty treat, munch on the cow and pig that was sacrificed for your gluttony. You, too, can join the cause to be sure the cow and pig you are eating did not die in pain, as is allowed by the laws that are in force now. Check out the laws on slaughter factories while you are enjoying your juicy bacon cheeseburger. They do not even have to be dead before being chopped up. The humane factories cut the animals heads off first--in assembly line fashion--the inhumane ones start going for the beef, pork, etc. while the animal is still alive. Educate yourself. You might barf on your next tasty bacon cheeseburger.
Diamond Jim
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February 24, 2014
Back in the '60's, Al Capp, who drew the popular Little Abner comic strip,invented an imaginary student movement called SWINE...."Students Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything" to mock the idiocy that was taking place on college campuses across the country.

PETA fits the same mold--a bunch of wing-nuts who insist that animals should have the same rights and legal standing as humans, that we should all be vegetarians,and a host of other demands.

So what's next? We should not ride horses,use dogs for hunting or keep them as family pets? President Papp should tell these idiots to "fly off" once and for all and then ignore any more demands. Continued response gets PETA media attention they don't deserve.
anonymous
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February 25, 2014
Diamond Jim: We do not kill horses we ride on. We do not kill hunting dogs. We do not eat horses here in America, not do we eat dogs here in America. Here in America there are rules about which animals are acceptable to eat--cows, pigs, chickens are okay. Horses, dogs, cats are not. Go figure.
Guido Sarducci
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February 24, 2014
With all the real and critical problems we have in the world, I find it distressing that we are wasting time and energy on this kind of foolishness.
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