Houston Cougars mascot dies after battle with degenerative spinal disease

HOUSTON — Officials at the University of Houston announced the death of the school’s mascot, an 11-year-old cougar named Shasta VI.

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Shasta died on Thursday, the Houston Chronicle reported. The animal’s death follows months of treatment for a degenerative spinal disease, according to a remembrance page posted to the Houston Zoo’s website on Friday. Zoo officials said the decision was made to euthanize the cougar after additional health issues, including declining kidney functions, were discovered.

Shasta VI was only a few months old when he arrived at the Houston Zoo in December 2011, KTRK-TV reported.

The zoo and the university’s alumni association entered into a partnership on March 24, 2012, introducing Shasta VI as the university’s official mascot, according to the television station.

University officials said that Shasta was the sixth live cougar to serve as the school’s mascot and the first male.

The first Shasta was bought in Mexico by members of the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity and brought to the campus in 1947 as a mascot for sports events, the Chronicle reported. He and the other Shastas lived primarily at the Houston Zoo while making appearances for school events.

The practice of keeping live mascots was discontinued in 1989, according to the newspaper.

“Shasta has been a cherished member of our Zoo family and an icon for the University of Houston for over a decade. We are all deeply saddened by this loss,” Kevin Hodge, vice president of animal programs at the Houston Zoo, said in a statement. “We are committed to ensuring the animals in our care experience the highest quality of life. That includes their day-to-day care as well as end-of-life decisions. With world-class animal keepers, incredible veterinarians, and a complete veterinary clinic, our animals receive the best possible care right up to their last days.”

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