Temple University students aren’t the only ones celebrating love this Valentine’s Day season.
Stella the Owl, Temple University’s live mascot, married Sherlock, her mate of five years last week. Stella and Sherlock, both great horned owls, live at the Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown, Pennsylvania.
Stella had a small bridal suite with a veil and a pink sash that read “Bride-to-Be.” Framed pictures of the bride and groom, red roses, white tulle and red paper hearts filled the venue.
Zoo staff members attended the ceremony, along with several zoo inhabitants. Noah, a bald eagle and the Philadelphia Eagles’s live mascot officiated the wedding. Munchkin, an eastern screech-owl, served as the flower girl and two red-tailed hawks were bouquet catchers.
The newlywed owls even had a wedding cake.
Dustin Kidd, the director of Intellectual Heritage and a sociology professor, said Stella and Sherlock’s wedding symbolized love, but also community.
“Weddings really bring out the solidarity of the community,” Kidd said. “They make us all feel united around supporting the couple and being together as a whole community.”
Although great-horned owls mate for life, it wasn’t love at first flight for Sherlock and Stella, said Rebecca Oulton, Stella’s primary trainer.
“Stella probably played a little hard to get, that’s kind of her personality,” Oulton said. “Sherlock won her over in the end, so he’s a worthy boyfriend.”
For Sherlock, marrying Stella is the happy ending to a story that could have ended much differently. Timothy Stephenson, Sherlock’s trainer, said Sherlock was injured in a car accident that prevented his release back into the wild. He arrived at the Elmwood Park Zoo in 2012.
When injured animals first receive care after an incident, they’re scared and don’t know what’s happening, Stephenson said.
“I started working with Sherlock most recently just to try to get him more comfortable out on a glove and out in front of people, so it’s still a work in progress,” Stephenson said.
Despite the trauma from his accident, Sherlock bonded with Stella.
Stella, who arrived at the Elmwood Park Zoo a year before Sherlock in 2011, became Temple’s live mascot in 2013. Stella attends several of Temple’s home football and basketball games and other events throughout the school year.
“She has a very adoring fan base and Stella’s head cannot get big enough,” Oulton said. “She loves hearing how beautiful she is, what a great mascot she is.”
Kidd said Stella serves as a reminder of the important role sports play at Temple and how they create a sense of purpose and a shared identity among students.
“We think it’s so important that we come together as Owls at Temple to support each other to support our community, to support our shared investments,” he added.
The wedding also solidified the relationship between Temple and the Elmwood Park Zoo, which are both active in their communities, Kidd said.
“In some ways, the zoo stands in for a much larger set of community partnerships that are so important to Temple,” Kidd said. “This wedding kind of solidifies that important relationship that Temple has with its community.”
St. Valentine would have to wonder whether they had “mated” pre-maritally.
[p.s., the sub-headline pronoun should be “whom” because it serves as the object of the preposition “with”]