Yes, UMaine Amazingly Used to Have a Real Black Bear Mascot
Editor's note: This article was written by a Townsquare Media Northern New England contributor and may contain the individual's views, opinions or personal experiences.
It's fun to look back on the history of the Wild West. The whole anarchist/nihilism lifestyle is equal parts fascinating and downright disturbing. What gets lost in all of this is the idea that the rest of the country was already some perfect utopian society that was above this. Because, well, it wasn't.
This leads me to something I learned about not too long ago. Something that downright makes me love Maine even more. And that is the fact that the University of Maine used to have a live bear mascot.
We aren't talking about LSU that has "Mike the Tiger" in an enclosure. No, the bear was literally on the sidelines of sporting events. An actual black bear just chilling with the team. It's wild to even comprehend.
According to UMaine’s Sigma Xi Chapter of Alpha Phi Omega community service fraternity, it all started back in 1914 when a small black bear named "Jeff," was loaned to the school by a local animal collector. The small bear was brought to a game and met with wild applause. According to the fraternity, Jeff the Bear did a few tricks including standing on his head, which made the crowd go wild.
According to the University of Maine, many live bear mascots would call Orono their home over the next 50+ years. The state of Maine would ban the use of live mascots in 1969, prompting UMaine to switch to a human mascot.
While perhaps not as intimidating, having a human mascot seems to be a much more safe and humane choice. However, this is still a fun fabric of Maine's history that truly shows how much can change over a generation or two.