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

February 1, 2019 - 3:08pm
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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 Feb. 2, but Oregon Zoo traditionalists say a young hedgehog known as Nancy is actually the one to watch. The spiny little creature will make her prediction Saturday, Feb. 2, at 10 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?

Hedgehogs are the real weather experts of the animal world, according to animal curator Tanya Paul, who oversees the zoo hedgehog family.

"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."

Nancy 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 FuFu predicted an early spring, which was not very accurate for this region. We had that big snowstorm right after Presidents Day and had to close the zoo for a few days."

According to StormFax Weather Almanac, Phil's predictions have been correct about 39 percent of the time. Oregon Zoo hedgehogs have been slightly more successful with about a 50 percent accuracy rate.