After over a decade of living in a public enclosure northwest of New Orleans, a 65-year-old alligator named Hardhide is retiring from public life.
Hardhide was held in an enclosure at the Ponchatoula Country Market for the past 13 years. The alligator is being transported to its owner’s private family pond in response to complaints issued to Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), NOLA.com reported.
The LDWF said in a February statement that a December examination revealed the alligator had swelling on her leg. Further examination by a veterinarian determined the swelling stemmed from an injury that the owner, Mike Kleibert, said was 45 years old and had already healed and calcified, the outlet reported.
LDWF officials also requested Hardhide be moved because the Ponchatoula enclosure was not outfitted with proper amounts of mud to allow the reptile to protect itself from the winter elements.
Kleibert made a Facebook post suggesting LDWF’s order to move the gator to his family’s pond is impractical and she would have to be euthanized. The pond’s ownership is split amongst Kleibert’s multiple family members, which would make the move hard, he told NOLA.com.
This announcement invigorated Hardhide’s fans and a Facebook group named “Save Old Hardhide” was created. The group boasts over 4,000 members.
Days later, Kleibert made another announcement declaring the gator will be able to safely retire on his family’s pond once a health inspection confirmed her injury is healed. The 65-year-old alligator was officially moved to the pond on Monday. “Hardhide is back home! Thank you everyone for loving her so much,” Kleibert announced on Facebook. (RELATED: Video Shows Police Officer Using Patrol Car, Rope To Wrangle Alligator)