How LSU tabs the perfect tiger to take over as the new Mike

When head veterinarian David Baker started the search for our next Mike after the passing of Mike VI, he was looking for what Mike VI had: an inquisitive spark.

LSU is one of only two colleges with a live tiger mascot and the only one to house the wild cat on campus, so Mike’s personality plays into the culture.

He needs to be personable enough to enjoy the attention of hundreds of visitors in a single day, outgoing enough that even when he naps he does it out in the fresh Louisiana air, and relaxed enough that the bursts and rumbles of game-day noises don’t bother him.

Baker found all that in a then-11-month-old Bengal-Siberian mix named Harvey at the Wild at Heart Wildlife Center in Okeechobee, Florida. Like Mike VI before him, Harvey approached Baker first through the gate of the enclosure— rare behavior for such a typically solitary animal.

And so Harvey became Mike VII.

It’s his second football season at LSU, but if you stop by to see him, you’ll notice he’s bigger than you left him. The rambunctious tiger weighed only 179 pounds when adopted last year. Now, he’s a hefty 406 and growing—the 2-year-old won’t reach his full size or maturity until age 4 or 5.

And you can tell from even a short interaction just what a kitten he still is. He’s curious, friendly and bold. He’s a voracious eater (currently at 15 pounds of food a day), with a love for sunshine naps and the scents of peppermint and Vicks VapoRub. This summer, he went viral for creeping up on a visitor and pouncing at the glass of his enclosure—so viral that his veterinary team had to ask the public not to tempt him to play rough, because he risks breaking a tooth.

“[We got him] a year younger than Mike VI was when we got him,” says Ginger Guttner, communications manager for the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. “He’s still a teenager.”

And like most teenagers, he doesn’t mind a bit of loud music. When the campus erupts into tailgating madness, he’s never retreated to his den. And now that LSU has discontinued pregame stadium appearances, he’s out in his habitat all day Saturday, enjoying the revelry.

Just don’t offer him a beer. He’s too young to drink.

This article was originally published in the Tiger Pride section of the August 2018 issue of 225 Magazine.

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