West Texas A&M University’s beloved Thunder X will soon have a home with room to roam thanks to fundraising efforts to build a new buffalo habitat for the 1,400-pound mascot.
The $150,000 project is a longtime dream of the Herdsmen, the organization responsible for the care and training of the mascot, and Herdsmen adviser Shawn Burns, chief of the University Police Department. Funds raised will provide a permanent habitat that best represents the majesty of the animal and the importance of the university’s mascot.
Thunder X is currently housed at the remnants of the university’s dairy farm, and Burns said the USDA is not happy with the facility. That has prompted the drive to get a new habitat built, and Burns hopes to have it finished in time to coincide with the Herdsmen’s 35th anniversary this fall.
Land has been secured, and plans for the project show a user-friendly facility for both the animal and the Herdsmen. The habitat will be located on 15 acres of land on Valley View Road northeast of the First United Bank Center and south of the Stanley Schaeffer Agriculture Education Learning Lab. The site will feature a small parking lot, a 40-foot by 60-foot metal building, a holding pen and shelter large enough to accommodate two animals and a turn-out area as well as a round pen for training. The parking lot will provide parking spaces for 20 to 30 cars, and the metal building will house a meeting room and an indoor storage area. Bids for the parking lot and metal building will go out as soon as funds are raised.
The habitat’s holding pen and shelter will be designed to hold two animals so that while one is representing the university as a mascot, another will be in training. The turn-out area planned for the new facility will be an added bonus for the university’s mascot. It will give Thunder X and his predecessors actual space to roam and graze in a natural habitat. Burns said the safe, contained space is more than has ever been available for the mascots and much more humane for the animal.
A six-foot pipe fence that meets current specifications and requirements of the USDA will surround the habitat. Burns said pipe materials are on hand, and members of the Herdsmen will begin work on the fence this spring.
For more information about the university mascot and how to donate to the buffalo habitat, visit wtamu.edu/herdsmen.