University of Colorado students and fans are resting easier Tuesday, knowing their beloved mascot is alive and well.

For a short time Sunday, the Daily Camera reports, police in Boulder, Colo., were concerned that Ralphie the Buffalo had been killed. Two Colorado students returned home late at night Saturday to find a massive buffalo head leaning against a large rock in front of their house. Patrick Burke originally thought it was fake, but after picking it up and seeing blood drip out, he realized this was no prop. The students panicked, thinking their iconic mascot was killed by a rival school.

The students called police, who immediately contacted the school. CU officials checked and both living mascots were safe and sound.

By Monday afternoon, law enforcement had solved the tale of the beheaded buffalo. A third resident of the house where the animal head was found called cops after seeing TV news reports about the incident. He told authorities he received the head as a souvenir following a visit to a family friend's buffalo ranch in Nebraska. Turned out it was the head of a buffalo slaughtered as part of a routine culling of the herd. The third roommate was drying it in his backyard so he could eventually display it in his home.

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The live mascot tradition began in Boulder back in 1934. While most mistake Ralphie for a male, she's not. Colorado uses female bison for insurance purposes, since the ladies are smaller and less aggressive than their male counterparts. It's said Ralphie can run as fast as 25 miles per hour.

Ted Turner, the CNN patriarch, donated the current mascot, Ralphie V, from one of his ranches. Turner, who used to own the Atlanta Braves, is the second largest individual landholder in North America with an estimated two million acres of land.

Police took the buffalo head back to the station as evidence, but it is expected to be returned to its rightful owner on Wednesday.

Denver's CBS 4 reports:

Ralphie's rip-roaring video:

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