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Ponchatoula gator being moved from viewing space after 65 years

Families have visited the gator in an enclosure in the center of Ponchatoula's downtown since 1975.

PONCHATOULA, La. — 65-year-old 'Old Hardhide' resides in the heart of Ponchatoula. 

Families have visited the gator in an enclosure in the center of Ponchatoula's downtown since 1975. 

But soon, she'll be retiring to a new home. 

That's why Madeline Tillman brought her little girl to see the gator on Wednesday. 

“My mom used to take us to doctor’s appointments here and it was a tradition to come and see Hardhide anytime we made it down into Ponchatoula," Tillman said, “We’re just coming to take our last peek and wish our girl the best.”  

The gator belongs to the Kliebert family of Kliebert Gator Tours. Hardhide is one of many gators that hatched in T-Mike Kliebert's grandfather's hands 65-years ago. 

“There are some gators that are still alive on that family facility. Hardhide is going back to that facility to live out the remaining part of her life and hopefully be happy," Kliebert said, “She’s living past her expected age and her health is good as we found out on her evaluation the other day.” 

The evaluation and move from her enclosure comes after the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries received a complaint about Hardhide's health in early December. 

"Upon inspection, it was noted that the alligator did have an injury. It was determined that the alligator display was not suitable for winter months," LDWF said in a statement.

Country Market Board of Directors President, Marilyn Meyn, said the enclosure does sit on their property, but the City of Ponchatoula feeds the alligator. 

“We just want the best for the alligator. We never reached out to anybody to have her removed or to do something with her or to—I can’t even say that—we would never ask for her to be euthanized," Meyn said. 

Euthanasia is off the table now that Hardhide received a clean bill of health from a veterinarian and will be moved to the Kleibert's family farm. 

According to Kleibert, the date of Hardhide's move to the farm is unknown at this time. 

In the meantime, folks stopped by on Wednesday to say, 'See ya later, alligator.'

“She means a lot to these guys. Especially the little one," Mother Kristine King said about her two little boys.

According to Ponchatoula City Hall's Facebook page, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is "also going to send us guidance on a new enclosure and are making connections for us with local experts."

“I hope that they upgrade the habitat and get something for a possible alligator in the future," Tillman said, “I mean our alligator is like our mascot to this town.”  

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