HISTORY OF MIKE THE TIGER

 

 

Mike I

In 1934, Athletic Department trainer Chellis “Mike” Chambers, Athletic Director T. P. Heard, Swimming Pool Manager and Intramural Swimming Coach William G. “Hickey” Higginbotham, and LSU law student Ed Laborde decided to bring a real tiger to LSU, then known as the “Ole War Skule.”

They raised $750, collecting 25 cents from each student, and purchased a two-hundred pound, one-year-old tiger from the Little Rock Zoo. The cub was born on October 10, 1935, and was originally named Sheik. His name was changed in honor of Chambers, the man most responsible for bringing him to LSU. Interestingly, Mike I must have remembered his original name because even years later Hickey Higginbotham could get him to roar just by calling Sheik.

Early in the morning on Wednesday, October 21, 1936, onlookers lined Highland Road, awaiting the entourage arriving from the train station. LSU students staged a campus strike equal to none to welcome their new tiger mascot to campus. Mike I would assume his duties only three days after arriving on campus. He would reign at LSU for nearly twenty years, traveling with the team and serving as the LSU mascot. Mike I died on Friday, June 29, 1956 of complications associated with kidney disease. He was twenty years and eight months old at his death. He created a legacy in which Mike the Tiger has come to symbolize the heart and soul of LSU athletics.

Following Mike’s death, a fund was established to perpetuate his memory by mounting his pelt in a lifelike manner and displaying him at the university’s Louisiana Museum of Natural History, where it remains to this day.

 1936-1956

1936-1956

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Mike II

 1956 - 1958

1956 - 1958

A few days after the death of Mike I, Representative Kenneth Deshotel of St. Landry introduced a resolution in the Louisiana legislature endorsing the purchase of another tiger. On campus, the Mike the Tiger Fund was launched by Student Body President Enos Parker and fellow students Vic Koepp and John Nunn. On August 4,1956, the LSU Board of Supervisors passed a resolution stating that caretaker salaries and maintenance costs for the new tiger would come equally from student fees and the Athletic Department.

Mike II was born on February 28, 1956, at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. He arrived secretly on campus on September 28, 1956. Mike’s unveiling occurred the next day, September 29, opening day of football season. A ceremony was held, during which Enos Parker presented a check for $1,500 to George Douglas, superintendent of the Audubon Zoo.

Legend has it that less than a month after his arrival at LSU, Mike II died of pneumonia at only eight months of age. Reportedly, Mike II was then secretly buried under a willow tree along the Mississippi River by newly appointed athletic director Jim Corbett, campus police chief C. R. “Dick” Anderson, and LSU Athletic Department business manager Jack Gilmore.

To explain Mike’s absence, a statement was issued in the LSU Daily Reveille on October 23 saying that Mike was having trouble adjusting to his enclosure and was there being kept inside “until he becomes more accustomed to the excitement of being a mascot.”

Another cub of the right age was located at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, according to Gilmore. In addition to Gilmore’s testimony, several pieces of evidence support the legend that the original Mike II died and was replaced by another young tiger. Photographs of Mike II taken before and after his convalescence are clearly of two different tigers (facial markings of tigers are as unique as fingerprints), and he seemed to have grown at a tremendous rate.  All rumors of the death and replacement of Mike II were denied.

The second Mike II reigned at LSU for only one season. He died at the Audubon Zoo on May 15, 1958, of complications associated with multiple fractures to his left rear leg (it was not known exactly how or when the leg was injured).

In 1955, Mike’s care was taken over by Dr. Joe Dixon of the LSU Department of Veterinary Science. Thereafter, while the Athletic Department retained authority over the tiger’s day-to-day life, Mike I and subsequent tigers would have a veterinarian to attend to their medical needs.


Mike III

 1958 - 1976

1958 - 1976

Born on Tuesday, November 26, 1957, Jim Corbett and Jack Gilmore located and purchased Mike III from the Seattle zoo. Mike III arrived just in time for the national championship football season of 1958. He was introduced to the general public at the first home game of the 1958 season, on October 4 against Hardin-Simmons University. LSU won 20-6.

The LSU student body raised $1,500 for his purchase and transportation (though the final purchase price was only $950, with an additional $100 for transportation). A five-cent “tradition fee” was assessed each student for the tiger’s care.

Because LSU competed in so many bowl games during the reign of Mike III, his caretakers have many stories to tell. Joel Samuels known as the "Tiger Man" recalls an LSU-Alabama game when coach Bear Bryant was the Alabama head coach. Samuels had a way of getting Mike to growl simply by saying, "Get 'em Mike." As the Alabama players gathered around the tiger trailer, Samuels quietly gave Mike the signal to growl. When Mike did so, it so unnerved the Alabama players that Coach Bryant took Samuels aside and gave him a stern lecture, advising him in no uncertain terms that he was not to upset his players like that. As far as we know, none of the other tigers growled on verbal cue.

Mike III served as LSU's mascot for eighteen years. During his lifetime LSU won the national championship in football (with a 7-0 win over Clemson) and three SEC championships (in 1958, 1961, 1970); the football team played thirteen bowl games, winning eight of them and complied a 142-50-7 record overall. Mike III died of pneumonia on Thursday, August 12, 1976, after the only losing season of his lifetime.

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Mike IV

 1976 - 1990

1976 - 1990

Mike IV was born at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Fla., on May 15, 1974. He was donated to LSU on August 27, 1976, by August A. Busch, III of Busch Gardens. He arrived at LSU on August 29, 1976.

Mike spent the summer of 1981 at the Little Rock Zoo while his enclosure was being expanded from 400 to 1,100 square feet. Money for the expansion was raised from the LSU Student Government Association, the Athletic Department, LSU fans, and a fee of $2 per student.

In 1981, pranksters cut the chain to the outer door and the lock to the inner cage door of the enclosure, releasing Mike. LSU police called Dr. Bivin around 1 a.m. to tell him that Mike was in the middle of North Stadium Drive. He wandered into the Bernie Moore Track Stadium, where Dr. Bivin shot him with a tranquilizer pistol (it took three shots to sedate him). He was safely returned to his enclosure.

In April 1990, Mike developed a neurologic problem that resulted in mild lameness. In addition, he was getting on in years and was beginning to slow down. The Baton Rouge Zoo offered to take in the aging mascot. There he lived until his condition worsened, and he became severely disabled.

Mike IV reigned for fourteen years at LSU and retired to the Baton Rouge Zoo in April 1990. He was put to sleep on March 3, 1995 due to health complications. His life span of twenty years, nine months, and eighteen days is considered extremely long for a captive tiger.

Mike V

 1990-  2007

1990-  2007

Mike V was born October 19, 1989, and came to LSU when he was four months old. Mike V was donated to LSU by Dr. Thomas and Caroline Atchison of the Animal Zoological Park in Moulton, Ala.

He was introduced to LSU fans at the LSU-Alabama basketball game in February 1990, and he was moved into his home, north of Tiger Stadium, on April 30, 1990.  When Mike V first came to LSU, his night house was part of the original habitat constructed in 1937. Being hand-raised seemed to have a positive effect on Mike V’s disposition; of all the tigers that served as LSU’s mascot, he had been described as the easiest to handle, with a calm and friendly disposition

Mike V lived his last years in great comfort, thanks to the support of thousands of LSU fans worldwide who contributed to the “I Like Mike” campaign to rebuild his habitat. Mike V moved into the new habitat on August 27, 2005. Mike V also received the finest care over the years, led by Dr. David Baker and the staff, faculty, and students at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine.

Mike V passed away at 2:23 a.m. on May 18, 2007, of renal failure. He had been anesthetized and brought to the LSU SVM on May 16 so that Dr. David Baker could determine the cause of recent weight loss and respiratory difficulty. During the examination, it was determined that Mike had a large amount of fluid around his lungs. Emergency surgery was performed, and the fluid successfully removed. Unfortunately, Mike’s aged kidneys could not tolerate the anesthesia and failed.

During his tenure, Mike V reigned over a football national championship, five baseball national championships and a remarkable 23 track and field championships. He saw LSU sports teams win 37 Southeastern Conference titles from 1990 to 2007.Mike V was cremated, and his ashes are located in the Andonie Museum next to the LSU Alumni Association on LSU’s campus.

 

 

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MIKE VI

 2007 - 2016

2007 - 2016

Mike VI was born July 23, 2005, and came to LSU when he was two years old. At the time of his arrival at LSU, he weighed 320 pounds.

Mike VI was donated to LSU by Great Cats of Indiana, a nonprofit sanctuary and rescue facility for big cats and other large carnivores, located in Idaville, Ind.

He was moved into his new home on August 25, 2007, and was introduced to the LSU community on September 1, 2007. He was officially declared Mike VI at a ceremony held on September 14, 2007. He debuted in Tiger Stadium on the evening of the Florida vs. LSU football game on Saturday, October 6, 2007. LSU won 28-24.

On May 23, 2016, Mike VI, was diagnosed with a spindle cell sarcoma, a type of cancer. He underwent stereotactic radiotherapy on June 1 at Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center in Baton Rouge, La. In October 2016, a CT scan revealed that Mike VI’s tumor has grown and cancer had spread despite treatment. He entered hospice care in his night house on Oct. 10, 2016, so that his caretakers could observe him to ensure that he did not suffer.

On Oct. 11, 2016, Mike was humanely euthanized in his night house by LSU’s Attending Veterinarian David Baker, DVM, Ph.D.


Mike VII

 Mike VII's first day at LSU - August 21, 2017. 

Mike VII's first day at LSU - August 21, 2017. 

Mike VII was born September 13, 2016. He was introduced to the LSU community on August 21, 2017, the first day of classes at LSU.

LSU announced that the rescue tiger, “Harvey,” arrived on campus on Aug. 15 and was being housed in the night house of the tiger habitat. The 11-month-old, male tiger was being quarantined in the night house so that he could be observed by LSU veterinarians to ensure that he is healthy and a good fit for LSU. The tiger acclimated well to his new surroundings and was deemed ready to become Mike VII.  LSU held a welcome event for Mike VII almost one month after his arrival on campus and on his birthday.

Mike VII, who has both Siberian and Bengal characteristics, was donated to LSU from a sanctuary in Okeechobee, Fla., called “Wild at Heart Wildlife Center.” Mikes IV, V and VI were also donated to LSU from rescue facilities. LSU has not purchased a tiger since Mike III in 1958, and LSU does not support the for-profit breeding of tigers. By providing a home for a tiger that needs one, LSU hopes to raise awareness about the problem of irresponsible breeding and the plight of tigers kept illegally and/or inappropriately in captivity in the U.S.

The tiger habitat and LSU’s animal care plan are licensed by the USDA. The facility, tiger and animal care programs are inspected annually to ensure that they comply with the Federal Animal Welfare Act and other USDA policies and guidelines.