After a somewhat secretive search, LSU identified a young tiger that could become Mike VII, the school announced in a press release Tuesday.

The male tiger is 9 months old and weighs about 160 pounds. The rescue tiger has both Siberian and Bengal characteristics.

But a few hurdles have to be cleared before the tiger is officially declared Mike VII.

When the tiger arrives later this month, he will be kept for about a week in the night house in LSU's on-campus habitat for about a week. He will not be visible to the public during this time of quarantine and acclimation. If the trial period goes well, the tiger will be released into his yard and will officially become the university's new live mascot. LSU will announce in advance the day and time that the tiger will be out in his yard for the first time.

Mike VI died in October after a brief battle with a rare form of cancer.

In response to advances in animal care and concerns over the live mascot's treatment, the next tiger will no longer be trotted out in a cage for home football games and will live in a newly-renovated habitat that is larger and more educationally oriented than the previous enclosure.

“LSU hopes to raise awareness about the problem of irresponsible breeding and the plight of tigers kept illegally and/or inappropriately in captivity in the U.S.,” LSU said in its press release, adding that the habitat and animal care plan are licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and in compliance with federal law.

LSU has had a live tiger mascot on campus since 1936. Some animal rights groups have called on the school to abandon the tradition, with those calls growing louder amid the last mascot's highly-publicized illness and treatment.

LSU President F. King Alexander refused comment Tuesday but said last week that the school is following its mandate by trying to help tigers and educate people who come to see the tiger about the plight of the species.

“A lot of people who say, 'Don’t have a tiger,' don’t say how they would help,” he said. “We have a bigger mission to help save tigers around the world.”

Some critics among the LSU Faculty Senate argue that a nice habitat is being used to justify keeping a wild animal from pursuing a life in nature. Others counter that the new Mike could help his species by encouraging people to give money to conservation.

James G. Wilkins, a professor at Louisiana Sea Grant College Program, sponsored a resolution that the Faculty Senate approved in May asking the university add a $1 surcharge to tickets of LSU sporting events to raise money for private organizations that do field work to preserve tigers’ natural habitats. “It would be a good gesture and show the world that LSU is not only serious about tiger conservation but is willing to back that support with serious dollars,” Wilkins said.

LSU’s leaders, however, have remained mum on the idea.

The process of acquiring a large carnivore has changed dramatically over the years, but particularly since Mike VI was obtained in 2007 from an Indiana facility that was closed seven years later because of conditions found by wildlife inspectors.

LSU officials have refused to comment on the hunt for a new tiger since it began in January.

Dr. David Baker, the director of the LSU Division of Laboratory Animal Medicine and the attending veterinarian for the mascot who was also put in charge of locating the tiger, has steadfastly refused to talk about how he went about finding this animal.

“If this tiger definitely becomes Mike VII, we’ll have a press conference, and Dr. Baker will answer questions about the search and the tiger,” Ginger Guttner said in an emailed response Tuesday to a request for comment.

According to the LSU press release the young tiger in question is in need of a new home. “He currently resides at a sanctuary formerly known as 'Animal Adventures' in Okeechobee, Fla.; this facility has undergone a change in ownership and is now ‘Wild at Heart Wildlife Center’,” according the press release. The new owners, Jamie and Jeremy Hargett, took over the facility after promising to upgrade and enlarge enclosures, double the size of the facility, stop breeding the animals and reduce the number of animals. The juvenile tiger will be donated to the university by the facility, according to LSU.

Animal Adventures had a dozen tigers when the new owners took over in December. The Florida Wildlife Commission cited the Glades County facility for “unsafe and unsanitary conditions.” The former owner, Mary Sue Pearce, agreed to surrender her wildlife permits as part of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement on Nov. 28, according to the Okeechobee News.

Debbie Leahy, manager of captive wildlife protection for the Washington, D.C.-based Humane Society of the United States, said the tiger will do better at LSU than his current home.

"I wouldn't call the place in Florida a sanctuary," said Leahy. "There is no question the tiger is going to be better off at LSU.”

Rebekah Allen, Ross Dellenger, and Will Sentell of The Advocate contributed to this report. 

Follow Mark Ballard on Twitter, @MarkBallardCnb.