University of Houston Mourns the Loss of Shasta VI Mascot
HOUSTON, Aug. 5, 2022 — Shasta VI, the University of Houston’s live cougar mascot who made his home at the Houston Zoo, passed away from a progressive spinal disease on Thursday, Aug. 4. Shasta VI was loved and cared for by his dedicated staff of carnivore keepers and veterinarians at the Houston Zoo and was a cherished member of the Houston Cougar family. We join so many in mourning the loss of Shasta VI.
Shasta VI was only a few months old when he arrived in Houston in December 2011. He and his two brothers were rescued in Washington state after their mother was illegally killed by a hunter. At only five weeks old at the time of their mother’s death, the cubs had little chance of survival in the wild.
Shortly after his arrival in the Bayou City, the Houston Zoo and the University of Houston Alumni Association entered into a partnership on March 24, 2012, introducing Shasta VI as the University’s official mascot. Shasta was the sixth live cougar to serve as UH's mascot and the first live male. He represented the spirit and tenacity of UH’s students and alumni, and personified the resilience and strength of the University.
"Shasta’s service and symbolism of pride and school spirit will live on..."
For the past 10 years, Shasta VI played a pivotal role in cherished university traditions. Each fall and spring prior to commencement ceremonies, Shasta VI guarded the rings of the graduating classes as well as all students who had recently received their class ring. All of the rings would be placed in a UH-themed box, which would spend the day in Shasta’s habitat. Throughout the years, UH and the zoo have partnered to celebrate special occasions, such as Shasta’s birthday parties and live appearances via webcam at UH football games.
“With the help of the Houston Zoo, it was our honor at the UH Alumni Association to bring Shasta VI to the UH family,” said Mike Pede ('89), associate vice president for alumni relations. “Shasta’s service and symbolism of pride and school spirit will live on with all who went to see him, had their rings guarded by him or saw his handlers adorn his habitat with spirited notes of support. Rest easy good friend.”
Shasta lived in the Zoo’s cougar habitat alongside Haley, a female cougar who also serves as a UH ambassador. The duo loved the zoo visitors, which included generations of UH families, students and alumni. Shasta played in important role in educating guests about the important roles cougars play in the ecosystem.
Dating back to 1947, Shasta VI follows a long line of previous mascots that have helped showcase Cougar pride on campus and in the community. Between 1947 and 1989, five live cougars served as mascots. Since Shasta V's death in 1989, costumed students have carried on the tradition on-campus. With Shasta VI, the live mascot tradition was reimagined at the Houston Zoo.
The University of Houston extends our condolences to the UH Cougar and Houston Zoo families. We are grateful to the Houston Zoo, the UH Alumni Association and the generous donors who made Shasta VI’s presence at the zoo possible.