Live mascot to represent UH after 20 year absence

Shasta III served as the mascot from 1965 to 1977. She was known as “The Lady” and was featured in commercials for the American Motors Corporation.  |  File Photo/The Daily Cougar

Shasta III served as the mascot from 1965 to 1977. She was known as “The Lady” and was featured in commercials for the American Motors Corporation. | File Photo/The Daily Cougar

New traditions will be blended with old on Saturday when the UH Alumni Association unveils a live cougar mascot for the University after more than two decades without one.

Though Shasta VI’s predecessors have lived on campus, this incarnation will remain in his exhibit at the Houston Zoo, said President of the UH Alumni Association Mike Pede.

“There are all kinds of reasons why a live cougar should not be out of where he’s being handled by professionals,” Pede said. “He will be there 24-7 with the 4-year-old cougar that already lives there named Haley.”

The Alumni Association has been in communication with the zoo since Jan. 2011, but they have been working on getting a new cougar for longer.

“Once we got here, we thought that was a very important tradition to try recreate or renew, so we’ve been working to do that since I got here two years ago,” Pede said.

One of the new traditions will be to leave class rings in the cougar exhibit overnight.

“We will take the class rings and put them in the exhibit in a specially made box that Shasta will be able to hop up on top of and bless those, basically,” Pede said.

The Alumni Association will also set up webcams in the exhibit so that Shasta can make digital appearances at UH events.

“I think in a perfect world, everyone would like to have their live mascot on their campus in a wonderfully laid out exhibit,” Pede said. “But I also understand all the issues that will have us handling it in this way.”

Shasta VI was born in September in Washington, and he now weighs about 45 pounds, said Houston Zoo Spokesperson Brian Hill.

“The weight for an adult male cougar is about 145 pounds, so he has a little bit of growing to do,” Hill said.

Shasta’s mother was killed by a hunter, and state wildlife officials were brought in to rescue Shasta and his littermates.

“Two of the cubs were found in short order,” Hill said. “But Shasta proved a little bit elusive.”

The cub was eventually found when state wildlife officials mimicked the chirping sound mother cougars use to communicate with their cubs, Hill said, and all three cubs were then taken to Oregon Zoo.

“Shasta had a pretty rough go as a young cougar, but he’s in a great place now,” Hill said.

Pede, who graduated from UH in 1989 and wore the Shasta suit as the mascot at UH football games, said that having a live cougar mascot provided a boost to school spirit.

“Whoever you’re walking through the zoo with,” he said, “you can beat your chest in pride for a couple minutes and say, ‘That’s my guy right there. He’s one of us and I’m one of them.’”

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  • Is the Alumni Association providing funds for Shasta's support at the zoo? If not, I'm sure that would be appreciated and would bring even more positive attention to the university. (I hope Shasta doesn't "bless" the rings by pooping on the box …)

    • I would be honored to have Shasta VI poop on my box of rings! 😉 Seriously, though, I wouldn’t mind, since the rings will be in a specially made box. I just hope the box holds up to the strength of an adult cougar for the safety of both the cat and the rings.

  • I think this might be the first male Shasta we've ever had. Guess people are forgetting that her name was derived from the phrase "She has to"…

  • I was one of the student body present at that time in '46 or '47 when we got our first cougar, brought in by a twin engine plane to our local Hobby, or whatever it was called back then off Telephone Rd. We had a naming contest on campus and the wining name was Shasta (she has ta). You had be a devoted animal lover to be selected as one of the "Cougar Guards." These facts are pretty accurate for an old OLD guy at 88 years old, and still loves the Cougars even while living in Tyler, Texas, where the paper here seldom will mention Univ. of Houston in their sports pages or anywhere else….. Buster Barlow, class of '48 and, like the timex watch, "still ticking."

  • Props and kudos to Pede for making this happen, but I can't help but wonder if it's really the right approach or not. Shasta I-V were all females because of the fact that female cougars typically only get to be about 90 pounds or so, and thus would be easier for Cougar Guard members to handle. It sounds like Shasta VI won't be getting out to "represent" at athletic events and such. So, we've got a live mascot again, but you'll have to pay to see him. ~Wade Magruder, class of '88

  • I'm so excited! I think it's so awesome that my class ring will be the first of many Shasta VI will bless.

    I don't think its a huge deal that Shasta is a male now. We won't be having this Shasta on campus anyway so there's no need to worry about the Cougar Guard to be able to handle him.

    As far as tradition change? A&M and UT both have had major aspects change about their mascot.

  • Distance learning, then distance mascots. What's next? Distance commencement? Class rings being blessed by a male cougar named Shasta? I hope "he" doesn't know he has a girl's name. He might bless the rings the wrong way.

  • I am really excited that the University of Houston will begin a new tradition with our class and have him guard our rings! What a better way to showcase UH and have tourists that visit the Houston Zoo meet out mascot, Shasta VI!

  • I hope the Zoo will prominently identify Shasta as the UH mascot. This is very good for instilling the City of Houston with some cougar pride.

  • Let me update you on the sex of the University of Houston's *costumed* mascot, Shasta. This specific "mascot" is now a MALE named SHASTA. The female mascot that sometimes accompanies him is named SASHA. Yes, Shasta won his/her name with the whole "she has to… she hasta… shasta" story of glory, but at the the end of the day it is really not important whether the mascot is male or female.

    @AJColvin: Shasta is both male and female name, like my own.

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