Handling LSU’s mascot, Mike the Tiger

MIKE THE TIGER, LSU — Perhaps the most awe-inspiring mascot in the country, this 400-plus-pound Bengal tiger occupies a 13,000-foot campus palace. Only two upper-class veterinary students are chosen to feed and clean up after him, at $7 an hour.

They apprentice for four months, studying his moods and sleep patterns to know when a creature trained to kill might not be feeling well. They operate the electronic filtering and other aspects of Mike’s $3.2 million den.

They have to have more than smarts.

“Typically they are students who come to me and say, ‘I have wanted to take care of Mike the Tiger since I was a child,’ ” said Mike’s vet, Dr. David Baker, director of LSU’s Division of Laboratory Animal Medicine. “We want them to have that closeness, affection and love for Mike.”

Mike V, 16, paces the paw steps of Mikes going back 70 years. Legend says the Tigers score for every growl of his before game time.

His closest humans must also manage his many off-field appearances.

“In these days of animal rights, it’s hard to justify having any animal kept for rah-rah value, and we’re using Mike to educate people about conservation issues,” Baker said.

None of Mike’s caretakers have gone into exotic animal medicine. Baker says nurturing him makes them into more observant and responsible vets for far less dangerous animals.

Tip: “There is never a time when there is nothing between us and the tiger.” — Dr. David Baker

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