Mike V, LSU's mascot since 1990, dies

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The 400-pound royal Bengal tiger that has been LSU's mascot since 1990 died on Friday.

The tiger, named Mike V, was often rolled out onto the sidelines of LSU home football games in a circus-style cage painted in LSU purple and gold, sometimes positioned specifically to welcome visiting teams into Tiger Stadium.

Mike V was taken into the Pete Maravich Assembly Center for selected basketball games as well. It began its stint as mascot at a basketball game against Alabama when current NBA star Shaquille O'Neal played for LSU.

The tiger's zoo-like, open-air habitat -- complete with a waterfall, live oaks, an Italianate tower and a small pond sealed off by glass walls -- is a popular attraction among those who visit campus during sporting events.

The habitat was expanded and redesigned in 2005 at a cost of about $3 million.

"Mike V was a noble mascot who was loved by Tiger fans young and old, and he represented all that is proud and dignified about LSU," said LSU athletic director Skip Bertman. "Mike has reigned over a magnificent era of Tiger athletics and he is missed today by LSU fans the world over."

Mike IV was LSU's mascot from 1976-90. Soon after, Mike V was donated to LSU by Dr. Thomas and Caroline Atchison of the Animal Zoological Park in Moulton, Ala.

The tiger was cared for by staff, faculty and students at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine.

Earlier this week, his caretakers noticed the tiger was having trouble breathing. An examination revealed fluid around his lungs and surgery was performed to remove it. During the operation, anesthesia caused kidney failure and an attempt to keep the animal alive with renal dialysis was unsuccessful.

"For nearly two decades, Mike's stately demeanor and mighty roar thrilled thousands of fans, young and old alike, as he represented the majestic spirit of LSU," chancellor Sean O'Keefe said in a written statement. "He will be remembered fondly and greatly missed."

Tigers tend to live about 14 to 18 years.

The university intends to acquire another tiger, school officials said.