“Shasta has been a beloved member of our Zoo family and an icon for the University of Houston for over a decade. We are all deeply saddened by this loss.”
HOUSTON — It’s a sad day for people at the Houston Zoo, the University of Houston and countless Houstonians who have visited the zoo over the years.
Shasta, the zoo’s beloved cougar and UH icon, has died aged 11.
Zoo vets had treated Shasta for progressive spinal disease and declining kidney function, which is common in older cats. The zoo said his health was deteriorating rapidly this week and they made the heartbreaking decision to euthanize him on Thursday.
“Shasta has been a beloved member of our Zoo family and an icon for the University of Houston for over a decade. We are all deeply saddened by this loss,” Kevin Hodge, the zoo’s vice president of animal programs, said in a statement.
UH also paid tribute to Shasta on their Twitter page.
“He represented the spirit and tenacity of the UH’s students and alumni, and personified the university’s resilience and strength,” the Coogs tweeted.
Shasta spent most of his life in Houston after coming here as a five-week-old cub from Washington State. A hunter had illegally killed his mother and experts determined that Shasta had little chance of survival in the wild.
Houston Zoo’s Full Statement on Shasta .’s Death
The Houston Zoo mourns the death of 11-year-old cougar Shasta. For several months, the zoo’s veterinary team has been treating him for a progressive spinal disease that has rapidly worsened in recent days. Over the course of treatment, Shasta was also found to have declining kidney function, which is common in older cats. Animal care and health teams made a comprehensive assessment of his overall well-being and made the difficult decision to euthanize him on Thursday when it became clear he would not recover.
“Shasta has been a beloved member of our Zoo family and an icon for the University of Houston for over a decade. We are all deeply saddened by this loss,” said Kevin Hodge, vice president of animal programs at the Houston Zoo. “We are committed to ensuring that the animals in our care experience the highest quality of life. That includes both their day-to-day care as end-of-life decisions. With world-class animal caretakers, incredible vets and a complete veterinary clinic, our animals receive the best possible care until their last days.”
Shasta could sometimes be seen at the top of the habitat where he had a penthouse view of other species and seemed to enjoy watching the elephants from this vantage point. Loved by goalkeepers, staff and guests alike, Shasta was best known for stalking goalkeepers when they walked past his exhibit or were the center of attention of his adoring fan base. His caretakers will remember him as a simple, sweet and funny cougar who always put a smile on people’s faces. Shasta loved the attention fans of the University of Houston gave him and certainly appreciated the extravagant birthday parties with his favorite foods. The students, faculty, and alumni of the University of Houston will no doubt remember him fondly as he diligently guards the stakes for each graduating class.
Shasta came to the Houston Zoo in December 2011 after a hunter illegally shot and killed his mother in Washington state. As a five-week-old cub, Shasta had little chance of survival in the wild.
Fortunately, Washington State Fish & Wildlife agents were able to locate and rescue Shasta. When he arrived at the Houston Zoo, a partnership was formed between the University of Houston and the zoo to designate Shasta as UH’s official mascot. Shasta lived a healthy and active life at the zoo alongside Haley, the zoo’s female cougar.
Shasta was an ambassador to his wildlife counterparts while faithfully representing the spirit of the University of Houston.”