Many schools and sports teams around the country are confronting intolerance and the use of culturally and racially insensitive imagery by choosing new mascots that more closely represent the student and school values. Wolves have become a popular, growing trend as a mascot that represents such feelings as community, family, unity, strength, survival, and more.
Attitudes toward wolves and other often vilified species continue to become more positive in recent decades, and schools renaming mascots for such an iconic species is significant. Public perspectives and values regarding wolves have generally moved away from traditionalist views, which see wildlife as existing for human use, to mutualistic views, which acknowledge wildlife as having intrinsic value and meriting ethical consideration.
Countless polls and surveys show that Americans, including children, care about wolves and want them protected. Seeing students weigh in on these mascot decisions underscores the love and respect for wolves across generations.
Wolves are highly intelligent, social, and family-oriented. They raise their pups in extended family groups and work together to hunt and care for their young. They also keep the ecosystem healthy and biologically diverse.
These 10 schools are examples of this wolf trend from around the country:
1. Okemos Public Schools, Okemos, Michigan
Source: FOX 47 News/Youtube
Students in Okemos, Michigan, felt strongly that their previous mascot did not reflect their values of diversity, equity, and inclusion and was stereotypical and offensive to some. They wanted a mascot that represented “positive qualities, ideals or associations around which all students connect, see themselves in, and can be proud of and rally around.” Wolves was a clear favorite during student and community surveys and the unanimous choice of the Student Committee and the District Committee.
The students chose Wolves for many reasons, including because wolves are family-oriented, endangered, represent strength and beauty, have a historical significance, and are persistent. A member of the Student Committee told the Okemos Board of Education, “Also the animal itself is an intelligent, beautiful, strong animal that works together for success and to survive, so they perfectly fit what so many OHS students strive to be and what so many already embody.”
Wolves are important to the Anishinaabek Tribes of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. The Michigan Native American Heritage Fund contributed funds to the costs of adopting the new mascot. The students recognized the plight that wolves face, telling the Okemos Board of Education, “We can use this as an opportunity to promote their protection.”
2. Loveland High School, Loveland, Colorado
Source: Denver7 – The Denver Channel/Youtube
Within two months of the school’s decision to replace its mascot, the Loveland High School community had already chosen Red Wolves as their new emblem. Todd Ball, principal of Loveland High School, remarked on wolves being incredibly social and family-oriented, noting in the Loveland Reporter-Herald, “Wolves are the ultimate family, and I think about all of the people in the community that have been passionate about this….we achieve things by supporting everybody in the pack.”
3. Bill Reed Middle School, Loveland, Colorado
Also in Loveland, Colorado, administrators at Bill Reed Middle School changed their mascot to the Wolfpack after receiving input from the community and students. School principal, Arnold Jahnke, spoke about students and staff choosing Wolves because of the qualities they represent, including family, perseverance, and teamwork, also telling the Loveland Reporter-Herald, “We are fiercely committed much like a wolf pack.”
4. John Jay High School, Lewisboro, New York
The Journal News reports that after deciding to retire a previous mascot “on the grounds that it was divisive and counter-intuitive to the district’s goal of fostering a welcoming environment,” the Katonah-Lewisboro school board voted to change John Jay High School’s mascot to the Wolves in 2020. The high school announced the change on their website, saying, “Wolves have a strong community connection and can be a proud symbol for our students and our schools,” and linking to information about wolves’ complex social behavior and ecosystem benefits.
With sixth-graders to seniors weighing in on the vote, Wolves came out on top. In their document explaining the change, a Mascot Selection Committee cited that the new mascot “embodies teamwork, family, loyalty, and devotion to the group.” It may be significant that the Wolf Conservation Center is located a few miles away from the school.
5. Welch Middle School, Houston, Texas
After hearing from concerned community members, including local Native American leaders, the Houston Independent School District changed the mascots of four schools. Welch Middle School chose the Wolf Pack for its new mascot.
6. Conrad Schools of Science, Wilmington, Delaware
Amidst concerns about racial insensitivity, the school voted on three possible replacement mascots, with Red Wolves the clear winner with 84% of the vote. Of the change, Conrad Principal Mark Pruitt told the News Journal, “without question, it’s a positive step for the school and the entire school community.”
One student involved in the process sat down with members of the local Lenape tribe to solicit their input. The student told WDEL that wolves have a fierce nature, an important attribute in competitive athletics, and were also family-oriented: all characteristics that drive positive community within schools and among students.
7. Teton High School, Driggs, Idaho
Source: KPVI News/Youtube
Following community concerns and an editorial in the student newspaper, students and community members changed the name of the paper and adopted Timberwolves as the mascot name of the school. In the editorial, students said they wanted to be known as a community “that welcomes students from all backgrounds, cultures, and identities.”
Once the decision to change the mascot had been made, students voted on the top choices, with Timberwolves winning out against 15 other options.
8. Nashoba Regional High School, Nashoba, Massachusetts
Source: CBS Boston/Youtube
Following a collaborative community process, 84 percent of more than 1,700 votes supported changing the school mascot to Wolves, and the Nashoba Regional School District School Committee unanimously agreed. District Superintendent Brooke Clenchy explained to MassLive that the change was an effort to create “a more diverse and supportive school community for everyone.”
To Wicked Local, Superintendent Clenchy also said: “This collaborative process has been just one example of how teamwork is at the heart of everything we do in the district. It’s fitting that our community has chosen Wolves – whose packs are known for their teamwork as well as their individual strengths.”
9. Gar-Field High School, Woodbridge, Virginia
Patch.com reported that Gar-Field High School officials announced their plan to change their mascot “at the request of student leaders who called on the school to make the change ‘to promote a culture of respect and expand understanding for all.’” Gar-Field High School Principal Matthew Mathison observed that “Gar-Field High School represents a diverse school community, which not only accepts but celebrates the many cultures represented by our families.” The school stated on their Facebook page that they selected Red Wolves through an “input process that involved a selection committee including students, staff and alumni, as well as a community preference survey.”
10. Paw Paw Public Schools, Paw Paw, Michigan
According to MLive, after recognizing that their previous mascot “drew controversy and divide[d] the community,” the Paw Paw School Board charged a task force of 27 students with guiding the selection of a new mascot based on “respect and inclusiveness.” Their process included more than 700 submissions and thousands of votes. A student in the task force explained to MLive that they “wanted a mascot that represents our community that students can be proud of. It gives us an opportunity to be united and show unity in our community.”
Superintendent Rick Reo said: “We also see this as a way to stress the close connections between our school district and community. Red wolves are social animals and they run in packs. They are intelligent and loyal, and when hunting or protecting their territories or each other, they go all out. These are all qualities we want to develop in our students and programs.”
It is heartwarming and encouraging that these ten schools and countless others across the country see themselves reflected in wolves. The next generation clearly values families, working together, intelligence, and strength—all attributes of the species. We hope these schools use these changes as opportunities to learn more about wolves and the critical need for their protection.
Unfortunately, the use of wolves as mascots does not mean that America’s wolves are safe from human harm. Even as millions of Americans celebrate their positive qualities, trophy hunters and trappers are setting their sights on wolf families. If you would like to help wolves, please take a few moments to send a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking them to restore Endangered Species Act protections to wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains, where they are currently being threatened by extreme wolf killing policies.
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