After Receiving Flowers from UT’s Bevo, LSU’s Mike The Tiger Dies at 11
Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
--William Blake, The Tyger (1794)
No sooner than a few hours had passed after word was received by us that the University of Texas' mascot Bevo XV had sent LSU's ailing Mike The Tiger flowers as a get well wish - that the sad news came out of Baton Rouge that Mike VI had succumbed to a rapidly spreading cancer and died. He was eleven.
I can tell you as a Tiger in Texas, this act of kindness did not go unappreciated. What a classy thing to do. As I'm fond of saying, Texas and Louisiana share more than a common border.
The gesture by the University of Texas also shows how much everyone knows mascots are treasured by their school faithful. Whether it's a friendly beast like the University of Georgia's bulldog Uga, or an actual live Buffalo like Colorado's Ralphie, the live mascots are among the most beloved in all of sports. Sports Illustrated printed out their list of best mascots and Bevo, Mike, Uga and Ralphie all made the top 6. Like all of his cohorts, the live Mike The Tiger was and is beloved by LSU fans young and old.
One of my dad's friends was the last student caretaker of Mike The Tiger in the 1960s. Yes, friends, in the era of Animal House and campus unrest, actual college students were in charge of a large wild animal living on the campus of a major university. The times they have changed. Today, and since the late 1960s, the big cats are supervised by the skilled staff of the LSU Veterinary School.
Mike VI, who was born "Roscoe" in 2005, became LSU's live mascot in 2007 after the passing of his predecessor at 17 years of age. He was donated by Great Cats of Indiana in Idaville, a nonprofit sanctuary and rescue facility for big cats and other large carnivores.
According to my old friend Kent Lowe from LSU's Sports Information Department, Mike was humanely euthanized after inoperable cancer had spread from under his right eye to other internal organs. Mike had undergone radiation therapy, the first time this human treatment had been applied to a large feline of any kind. Until late last week, Mike was still living in his custom-built habitat on the LSU campus. According to Kent (and my own eyes as I've seen it many times in person) the habitat incorporates natural substrates, including grass, and also includes elements of LSU's renaissance architecture and facts educating Mike's visitors on the live subspecies of tigers. Mike's yard encompasses 14,010 square feet (including his night house, 15,105.) I forget the actual cost but it was well worth the fundraising, which then-Coach Nick Saban was actively involved.
Kudos again to Bevo XV, long may he reign. And in Baton Rouge, after a period of mourning, the search will be on for a new and ferocious live Mike. Long may he reign as well.