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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

Real-Life Mascots for Conservation and the Gridiron

We love our football here at Open Spaces.

With football season in full swing, we probably don’t have to remind you that team mascots play a big part in establishing a team’s identity. Did you ever stop to think that nearly all professional teams have wildlife inspired mascots? Did you also know that some of those wildlife are currently facing—or have faced in the past—serious threats to healthy population levels?  

It’s true! While we love them all, we're spotlighting two wildlife inspired mascots that we think are ideal representatives for their respective cities and teams. Both display amazing physical attributes while showing tremendous resilence in the face of adversitiy--great qualities for any football team.  

So, which mascots are they.......

Touchdown!  Credit: Aaron Webb

Let's start with Atlanta’s Freddie Falcon.  As you can see, Freddie closely resembles the American Peregrine. The American Peregrine was listed as endangered in 1970 under the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969, a precursor to the Endangered Species act of 1973.  Since then, the American Peregrine has recovered and was delisted in 1999.

Immature Male American Peregrine Falcon, Credit: Craig Koppie USFWS

We can see why Atlanta chose the Falcon as its mascot. American Peregrines have been recorded at diving at speeds of 200 miles per hour and have relatively large a large wingspan relative to their size. This gives them a lethal combination of speed and leaping (flying!) ability that is ideal for football, especially the wide receiver position.

In the city of Brotherly Love, the Philadelphia Eagles picked a bald eagle named “Swoop” as the mascot to represent their city’s gridiron heroes. While the team website claims that swoop is 6'3 and over 200 pounds, real bald eagles are about 3 feet tall with impressive 6-8 foot wingspans.

As many of you know, the bald eagle was facing extinction just a half century ago.  Widespread use of DDT, loss of natural habitat, and overhunting were major factors.  In 1967 the bald eagle was declared an endangered species. After a variety of conservation efforts over a span of decades, eagle populations steadily increased. On August 9th, 2007 the bald eagle was officially delisted and declared recovered, healthy and growing.

So what makes a bald eagle a good football mascot?  Well, for starters, it’s the official national bird of the United States, making it an apt symbol for the historically significant city of Philadelphia.

In terms of on field abilities, the bald eagle’s superpowered vision makes them uniquely qualified for the quarterback position. Bald eagles have vision 4 times as powerful as humans, ideal for both finding food or that streaking receiver lost in the middle of a crowded secondary. 

So this Thanksgiving Day, as you’re sitting on the sofa with family watching the Detroit Lions and “Roary” at the traditional holiday game, we hope you take a second to be thankful for the real wildlife that inspires our favorite teams. 

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