Zoo to Punxsutawney Phil: You ain't nothin' but a groundhog

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Oregon Zoo's old-school prognosticator gears up for annual Hedgehog Day prediction

Punxsutawney Phil may hog most of the attention on Groundhog Day, but Oregon Zoo traditionalists say Jabari the hedgehog is the one to watch. The spiny little creature, whose name is Swahili for "brave one," will boldly make his prediction Saturday, Feb. 2, at 10:30 a.m. in the zoo's entry plaza: Will it be an early spring this year, or should we hunker down for six more weeks of winter?

Hedgehog Day festivities are free and open to the public. A zoo admission ticket is not required to access the main entry plaza.

"Hedgehogs are the true weather-prediction experts," said zoo director Kim Smith, who will oversee the zoo's Hedgehog Day festivities. "The groundhog is actually a latecomer to the game. It was only when immigrants to the United States realized their new home didn't have hedgehogs that they turned to the groundhog. Jabari is bringing the holiday back to its origins."

Considering the track record of the zoo's hedgehog though, tradition — and cuteness — might have to count for a lot.

"Last year, Jabari predicted an early spring, which was not all that accurate here in the Northwest," Smith said. "But our hedgehog has about the same success rate as Punxsutawney Phil."

According to records from StormFax Weather Almanac, Phil's predictions have been correct about 39 percent of the time. Oregon Zoo hedgehogs have been slightly less successful with a 38 percent accuracy rate.