Whiskers J, the Oregon Zoo’s African pygmy hedgehog, was probably not wild about being up so early to carry on the tradition of predicting the length of winter.  Whiskers J is a nocturnal animal and likes his environment to be warm.  Forecasting Portland weather didn’t allow for either of those conditions on February 2, 2015.

A small crowd gathered at the zoo to see what Whiskers J would see.  The results were never in doubt.  Gray, chilly, darn’d near close to rain.  No shadow, no more six weeks of winter, expect an early spring. 

Michael Illig, animal curator at the Oregon Zoo, says hedgehogs are 40 percent accurate over Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog, who is only 39 percent accurate. 

Hedgehogs were used by the Europeans for weather predictions but when the immigrants got to America, where there are no native hedgehogs, they had to pick a substitute.  That’s where the groundhog comes in, Groundhog’s Day, Punxsutawney Phil — all newcomers to the game.

This was Whiskers J forecasting debut this year.  He was born last summer at the zoo.

Benjamin Brink
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(503) 381-4475

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