Grin and bear it


The West Virginia University mascot has been told he no longer can do what certainly must 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 university’s sports teams play. Acting the role of a tough guy is pretty much the job description.

But the distinctive mascot became the target of criticism after a video circulated that showed him using the 5-foot-long rifle he carries as part of his gig to shoot and kill a bear. When the Mountaineer shoots the musket to signal the start of a football game, it is loaded only with powder, not with a .45-caliber round like the one that took down the bear.

Mr. Kimble didn’t break any laws while hunting with friends and relatives this month. A spokesman for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources told the Charleston Daily Mail that “it’s safe to assume this was a legal bear hunt.”

Until the dust-up, 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.

Yet Mr. Kimble conceded that hunting has fans and foes, and he apologized to anyone offended by his actions. He may be a mountain man, but he doesn’t lack for manners, or an understanding of his role as the public face of the university.