See ya later, alligator: Hardhide is removed from Ponchatoula habitat
PONCHATOULA – Hardhide, the unofficial reptilian mascot of one north shore town, has relocated.
Mike Kliebert, whose grandfather hatched the 65-year-old gator, said he moved Hardhide from public view to a private family property on Monday morning. She had been on display for about 13 years in a habitat where other gators have lived for decades.
The gator’s fate was threatened in recent weeks when the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said the injured animal needed to be moved to a more appropriate enclosure for winter weather. Authorities warned that they may have to seize her if she was not moved, and that, depending on a veterinarian's evaluation of her health at that time, she might be euthanized.
That possibility stirred up strong emotions in the city, which rallied behind the gator and Kliebert.
The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries recently notified Kliebert that the gator would need to be moved to a “more suitable pond at his family's alligator farm,” according to a statement from the agency.
"The ponds on their farm are deeper earthen ponds that allow the animals to burrow in the mud during winter months, similar to the way they do in the wild," the statement continued. "We informed Mr. Kliebert that before he moved the alligator and released it on his farm, that he was required to have it checked by a licensed veterinarian to ensure that it was healthy."
Kliebert said he hopes that another gator can call downtown Ponchatoula home sometime in the future.
For now, Kliebert said he’s happy with how things ended.
"I’m just happy she’s safe," Kliebert said of Hardhide. "We all love her."
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