Grin and bear it: Mountaineer is in trouble for living the part

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Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim, but the West Virginia University mascot has been told he no longer can do what must certainly come naturally to someone called a Mountaineer.

He can't use his muzzle-loader for hunting.

Jonathan Kimble, a 24-year-old student, is the burly, bushy-bearded man who wears a coonskin cap and buckskin coat at school-sponsored functions, particularly when the West Virginia Mountaineers sports teams play. Acting the role of a tough guy is pretty much the job description.

But the distinctive mascot became the target of some criticism last week after a video began circulating that showed him using the 5-foot long rifle he carries as part of the gig to shoot and kill a bear.

Rest assured that when the Mountaineer shoots the musket to signal the start of a football game, it only is loaded with powder, not with a .45-caliber round like the one that took down the bear. And he didn't break any laws while hunting with friends and relatives in the woods of Pendleton County on Dec. 3. A spokesman for the state Division of Natural Resources told the Charleston Daily Mail that "it's safe to assume this was a legal bear hunt."

Until last week's dustup, WVU officials had not told him to refrain from hunting with the school's weapon, which has a West Virginia-shaped gold plate on its stock. Mr. Kimble told interviewers that he used it to hunt deer earlier this year and that hunting with the musket has been a tradition among other men who have served as the WVU Mountaineer.

Nonetheless, Mr. Kimble acknowledged that hunting has its fans and foes, and he apologized to anyone who was offended by his actions.

He may be a mountain man, but he isn't lacking in manners, or an understanding of his role as a public face West Virginia University.

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