On Groundhog Day, zoo 'hedges' its bets for an early spring

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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 Mayzie the hedgehog is the one to watch. The spiny little creature will make her prediction Sunday, 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 Kim Smith, zoo director, 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. Mayzie is bringing the holiday back to its origins."

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

"Last year, our hedgehog Jabari predicted six more weeks of winter, which wasn't all that accurate," Smith said. "We ended up with more sun than usual and less rain. Overall, our hedgehogs have fared about the same as Punxsutawney Phil — which is not that great."

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 33 percent accuracy rate.