Furry Forecasters on Groundhog Day
Today, February 2, a crowd of nearly 300 guests gathered in Brookfield Zoo’s Children’s Zoo and waited in anticipation for the two furry forecasters—Cloudy and Tumbleweed—to make an appearance from their winter quarters. Usually this time of year, groundhogs are still hibernating, but with a little bribe of a sweet potato carrot-shaped cake, Tumbleweed emerged and did not see her shadow. Cloudy, on the other hand, did not even rouse.
According to legend, if a groundhog sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter; if it doesn’t, spring is just around the corner. Since 2001, Cloudy has predicted an early spring six times, and Tumbleweed, now in her third year of forecasting, has predicted an early spring once, in 2008.
During hibernation, a groundhog’s body temperature drops from 90°F to 38°F. It takes a breath about once every minute, and its heart slows to only four to six beats a minute. When the temperature begins to warm, it may take several hours for a groundhog to rouse from its slumber. If Cloudy and Tumbleweed are still hibernating, zookeepers will not disturb them as this could disrupt the animals’ metabolism.
Following the weather prediction, guests joined in the campaign-themed Groundhog Day Parade led by the zoo’s woodchuck costumed character. The parade concluded at Hamill Family Play Zoo, where youngsters created groundhog shadow puppets to taken home.
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