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3:50 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

Forget Punxsutawney, In Jacksonville A Hedgehog Predicts The Seasons

While the rest of the country looks to famed groundhog Punxsutawney Phil this Sunday, the First Coast will be keeping a weather eye (so to speak) on Penelope, the hedgehog.

“Hedgehogs are good weather predictors. Groundhogs aren’t,” said Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens Executive Director Tony Vecchio.

Tony Vecchio with Penelope the hedgehog.
Tony Vecchio with Penelope the hedgehog.
Credit Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

He’s very keen on hedgehogs.

“We use hedgehogs in education a lot," he said. "They’re a very common animal because they are so handlable.”

Despite their cool demeanor, Vecchio says it's the hedgehog diet that makes them such good prognosticators.

“They have to be good a predicting the weather because they eat insects. If they get up in the middle of winter and there’s nothing to eat, they die," he said.

"Their life depends on being good weather predictors.”

While Punxsutawny Phil gets dragged outside into the cold light of day to see if he has a shadow, Vecchio will be holding Penelope.

If spring is right around the corner, Vecchio says Penelope will be, "quite active," "Walking around, checking things out, sniffing."

And if spring is not around the corner?

"You will see a rolled up hedgehog,” Vecchio said.

And forget a sunrise forecast. Vecchio says Penelope will be ready at a more reasonable hour — 11 a.m.
 

You can follow Cyd Hoskinson on Twitter @cydwjctnews.