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

February 2, 2017 - 1:03pm
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FuFu the hedgehog calls for an early spring; local crocuses are put on alert

Punxsutawney Phil may be calling for six more weeks of winter, but local residents can take heart. FuFu, an African pygmy hedgehog at the Oregon Zoo, did not see her shadow this morning, meaning an early spring could be in store here in the Northwest.

Hedgehogs are the real weather experts of the animal world, according to animal curator Tanya Paul, oversaw this morning's prediction.

"Groundhogs like Punxsutawney Phil are relative newcomers to the game," Paul said. "According to folklore, the Europeans who originated the tradition originally used hedgehogs. When they immigrated to the United States, they realized their new home didn't have hedgehogs, so they turned to the groundhog out of necessity. But FuFu 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.

"The zoo's hedgehogs have fared slightly better than Punxsutawney Phil — which admittedly is not that great," Paul said. "Last year though, our hedgehog Velda did predict an early spring, which was pretty accurate for this region. We had the warmest February and April on record."

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 more successful with a 50 percent accuracy rate.