CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The musket toted by West Virginia University's Mountaineer isn't just a prop — it's a bona fide weapon, and mascot Jonathan Kimble demonstrated that when he brought down a black bear with it in the woods.
Now WVU has ordered Mr. Kimble to stop using his university-issued weapon on hunting trips after a video of last week's kill was posted online. He says hunting with the gun is a Mountaineer mascot tradition.
The Franklin resident accompanied more than a dozen friends and family on the trip in Pendleton County last Monday. In the video, Mr. Kimble is shown firing the musket at the bear in a tree.
"Let's go Mountaineers!" Mr. Kimble, 24, yells afterward. He also posted a photo of himself with the bear on Twitter.
The WVU mascot wears buckskin and a coonskin cap and fires the musket — loaded with black powder but minus ammunition — at home athletic events and other sponsored activities. Hunting isn't one of them.
"While Jonathan Kimble's actions broke no laws or regulations, the university has discussed this with him, and he agrees that it would be appropriate to forego using the musket in this way in the future," said WVU spokesman John Bolt.
Mr. Kimble said Friday that he has been hunting all his life and this was the first black bear he has ever killed. He said all his friends have congratulated him for that.
"Hunting can be a controversial topic," Mr. Kimble said. "I apologize to any of those who took offense to the video. It definitely wasn't my intent to offend anybody."
Mr. Kimble said taking the musket on hunting trips has become a tradition with the mascots. "Other Mountaineers have gone and shot multiple deer with it before. I've taken it with me deer hunting before, also," he said
Some WVU fans stand behind Mr. Kimble.
"This is a smart young man from West Virginia who did nothing wrong, who was celebrating who he is," said Robert Hickman, who holds two degrees from WVU and lives near Fairmont.
"If you're from West Virginia and you love the outdoors, or if you hunt or don't hunt, or if you fish or don't fish, it is a celebration of this state. As a former WVU graduate, I'm thrilled to death with him. Happy as can be."
The Mountaineer mascot first appeared at athletic events in the 1936-1937 school year. The Mountaineer is selected each year and the mascot's outfit is custom tailored to fit the winner.
Last February, the bearded Mr. Kimble was chosen from among 13 applicants.