Hold that tiger! Will Harvey be Mike VII?

Published 7:41 pm Thursday, August 17, 2017

My alma mater is getting a new mascot.

The pictures of “Harvey,” the 11-month-old male Siberian-Bengal tiger mix that will hopefully soon become Mike VII, have already hit the Facebook and Instagram circuit and several college football websites and blogs.

The mascot tradition at LSU goes back to 1936, with the arrival of Mike I, named, according to the stories, after Mike Chambers, the football team’s trainer. Like his successors, Mike I was a fixture at LSU home games, where he was paraded around the stadium, intimidated into roaring, then parked by the visitor’s portal, where visiting teams would pass by him on their way to the field. You have to imagine the looks on opposing players’ faces as they passed a live Bengal tiger on their way to the field.

ESPN pundit Kirk Herbstreit, who played quarterback for Ohio State, described his shock at coming out of the dressing room during the school’s lone visit to Tiger Stadium and seeing a live tiger in a mobile cage near the entrance.

There have been a lot of changes for Mike since I left Baton Rouge, all of them for the best.

When I was growing up, one of the things to do on the weekends was go to the campus to see Mike, who was housed in a small cage across from the stadium. That cage is now a thing of the past, and Mike now lives in a habitat where he has room for exercise and a nice pool to stay cool  during those hot Louisiana summers.

Thanks in part to Mike VI, who at times refused to enter his trailer for the trip to the stadium across the street to his habitat, and a more mature view from the administration to take a responsible and humane attitude toward helping protect the species, this new Mike will not be paraded around Tiger Stadium and forced to roar. He will remain in his habitat where he can be comfortable and where people can have the experience of seeing a live tiger; a species that is quickly disappearing in the wild.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, there were 3,890 tigers in the wild as of 2016, located in sections of India, Southeast Asia and the extreme eastern edge of Russia, and are under pressure from poaching and retaliatory killings, and habitat loss as more of their normal areas are being affected by development and expanding of human populations.

And while animal rights groups may object about live mascots, I’m glad to see LSU serve as a refuge for a still endangered species. I may not be a cat person, but when it comes to the big cats like tigers I am amazed at their beauty, power and majesty.

So I’m glad about Mike VII’s arrival, not just to continue the school’s mascot tradition, but because of the opportunity to protect a big cat from extinction and allow others to see one of the most beautiful animals in the world.

John Surratt is a staff writer at The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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