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Pets & Animals

Boston College brings back live bald eagle mascot after 47 years

Michael Lespasio / Today
A live bald eagle will once again serve as the mascot for Boston College, nicknamed the Eagles, by appearing at home football games for the first time since 1966.

In an effort to reconnect to its past, Boston College has brought back a symbol of America that has not been seen at an Eagles home football game in 47 years.

Through a partnership with Zoo New England, the school will have a live eagle mascot at all of their home football games at Alumni Stadium this fall. On game days, a 9-year-old bald eagle will be at the Flynn Recreation Complex on campus for fans to view and photograph. Boston College is asking fans on social media to come up with a name for the eagle via the Twitter hashtag #NameBCsEagle. The name will be announced when Florida State comes to Boston during Parents' Weekend on Sept. 28.

The last time Boston College had a live eagle mascot was from 1961 to '66 after three students lobbied to secure one, which resulted in a partnership with Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. The eagle resided at the zoo, which is owned by Zoo New England, except on game days. The current eagle also will live at Stone Zoo in Boston and then be transported to the campus for game days. 

"It is time that we bring back some of our old traditions and create new ones," Boston College athletic director Brad Bates said in a statement. "We are fortunate to have a majestic and imposing mascot, and showcasing an eagle in ways that are inspiring and educational will provide an exceptional opportunity for our fans while connecting with our history."

"The bald eagle has been downlisted (from the endangered list) because of the conservation programs to bring it back, and that has simplified the process,'' Zoo New England president and CEO John Linehan told TODAY.com. "It's a great opportunity to showcase a magnificent bird to a whole new audience. It has such a great conservation success story, and it shows what people can do in bringing endangered species back when they set their minds to it.. Sometimes the conservation world can be full of frustrations and failures, but this is one of those great examples of success." 

The new mascot will be kept on a handler's arm or on a stand at the Flynn Recreation Complex, and educational materials about the bald eagle will be distributed. The yet-to-be-named eagle is part of a live bird educational program at Stone Zoo and is used to working with bird handlers, according to Linehan. 

The use of the live eagle mascot at Boston College was discontinued in 1967 after the death of the first mascot, named “Margo,’’ in August of 1966. Sensitivities about a captured animal’s welfare and stricter regulations against capturing endangered species resulted in the school employing a human mascot wearing an eagle suit.

The bald eagle, which is the national bird of the United States, was removed from the endangered species list by the federal government in 1995. Permits are still required to keep them in captivity in the U.S.