Tiger picks Huskers to win first game of the season

September 2, 2018

SCOTTSBLUFF — Those roars the public heard coming from Riverside Discovery Center last week were the Amur tigers, Ussuri and Nika, discussing the big game on Saturday.

The tigers spent several days discussing who they thought would win the first game of the season for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Since the announcement of the return of former quarterback Scott Frost as the new head coach, Nebraskans eagerly awaited the first game of the season.

The animals at the zoo were also anxious to see what this Husker team can do with several animals jockeying to pick the winner of the game. On Saturday, Ussuri, a male Amur tiger, was the first animal to pick a winner with other animals making their picks for each Husker game as well as the Super Bowl.

“Ussuri is just as excited for Scott Frost’s first season as head coach of the Huskers as we are,” said Michael Gillen, assistant head zookeeper. “Go Big Red!”

Ussuri already knew who he was going to pick, but he wanted to wait until he had an audience to make the final decision.

“It’s that animal instinct that applies to anything, including college football games,” said Anthony Mason, jokingly. As zoo director, Mason is always looking for fun things to do for enrichment for the animals as well as make the public aware of the work the zoo does on conservation and preservation of species.

In front of a crowd of more than 20 people, Ussuri wandered around the red box, decorated with the Huskers logo and a light blue box with the Akron Zips logo. Assistant Head Zookeeper Michael Gillen had placed the same treat inside each box for Ussuri so his choice would be unbiased.

Once Ussuri was sure everyone was watching, he made his pick. Ussuri teased the crowd by wandering toward the Zips box first. He looked at it and then moved toward the Huskers box to the delight and cheers of the crowd. Once near it, he rolled on top of the Huskers box before tearing it up.

Harley Yerdon, herpetologist and zookeeper, was not surprised at Ussuri’s pick.

“Ussuri is a true Nebraska cat,” Yerdon said. “Of course he picked the Huskers. Go Big Red!”

While the picks are all just a bit of fun for the public, they also mean something more to the animals and to visitors.

“It’s a fun way to enrich the animals and (for us to) get involved in the community,” Mason said.

For future picks, watch the zoo’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/riversidediscoverycenter/ where they will announce which animal will pick the winner of the Huskers games all season long.

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