TULLAHOMA, Tenn. – School officials in two Tennessee school districts are investigating to determine who hung a dead bobcat from a goal post as the latest stunt in a nearly century long football rivalry.
Coffee County Central High School Red Raiders and Tullahoma High School Wildcats will go head to head today in the 89th annual Coffee Pot Rivalry football game, a tradition that’s typically proceeded with pranks between the two schools.
But this year, school officials said the rivalry got out of hand when someone shot and killed a bobcat before hanging the animal from the goalpost of Tullahoma’s practices football field, the Tullahoma News reports.
Student found the animal Tuesday morning, and a picture of the stunt was widely circulated on social media.
“This isn’t what a rivalry is about and this is not what our school and our community are about,” CHS principal Joey Vaughn told the news site.
“This isn’t rivalry. This is mean. This is wrong and hateful. This does not represent our student body as a whole. We have great kids at our school and Tullahoma has great kids at its school.”
Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency spokesman Doug Markham said there is a bobcat season in Tennessee, but it doesn’t start until Nov. 21. If found, the perpetrator could face a misdemeanor charge, he said.
“If we found out who it was and he or she killed it out of season they could be charged with hunting in closed season and they could face fines and court costs. They could lose their hunting license,” Markham said.
Meanwhile, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is pressing for criminal charges and the expulsion of any students involved. PETA officials are offering $2,500 for information leading to the identity of the person responsible, the New York Daily News reports.
PETA wants police to apply all possible criminal charges. If students are involved, the group wants them expelled, Kristin Simon, a PETA cruelty case work manager told the news site.
“This stunt shows a lack of concern for life,” she said. “If it was intended to be funny, it was not funny at all. We are extremely concerned about it.”
In previous years, someone cut off power during a halftime band performance, and left a toilet in the school field the week of the game, WSMV reports.
Tullahoma High School officials released a statement that the “despicable act does not represent the leadership, citizenry or the vast majority of students at Coffee County High School and Tullahoma High School. We are friends, neighbors, relatives and at times fierce competitors, but that fierce competition leaves no room for cruelty to animals.
“Nearly every student in Tullahoma and Manchester is disgusted that any innocent animal is used as an object lesson and all are hopeful that our competition is safe, fair and fun.”