After decades as a Thunderbird nation, Southern Utah University will trade in the mythological fowl for a mascot more representative of the SUU spirit that comes forth in the hard work and tenacity of SUU true, whether it be in the classroom, on a field or on the stage.
This morning, SUU leaders proudly announced the University’s new mascot, the Fighting Prairie Dog.
The prairie dog, indigenous to the region, has been protected in southern Utah since 1973 as an endangered species. And though the dust-colored rodent has been a source of irritation for some locals, who say its protected status hinders development and economic growth, SUU officials feel there is no greater symbol for the SUU community than this small, short-tailed ground squirrel.
According to Vice President for University Relations Dean O’Driscoll, who is responsible for the University’s brand management, the French call the prairie dog, named for both their habitat and warning call similar to a dog’s bark, the “dog mouse.”
As talks about rebranding the University developed, says O’Driscoll, “there seemed no better animal than the highly social and tenacious prairie dog to symbolize the close-knit community of hard-working students, faculty, staff and alumni who bring our campus to life.”
As an afterthought, O’Driscoll adds, “We chose this ‘small dog’ because we are a small school that, like the prairie dog, must often burrow and forage for success.”
Prairie dogs are also considered by ecologists to be a keystone species in the life cycle – an important prey species as the primary diet to larger, more dominant mammals and avian creatures, including the ferret, fox, badger, hawk, owl and eagle. With such a vital role, it’s no wonder the prairie dog is protected by state and federal laws.
Out with the old and in with the new. Goodbye fabled fowl; hello fighting foragers.