With the passing of the Tennessee Aquarium's Chattanooga Chuck in November, there won't be a local groundhog popping out to check for its shadow Sunday, Feb. 2.
However, Luna, a hedgehog at the Chattanooga Zoo, is ready to step into that role on Groundhog Day.
Luna is an obvious choice, say zoo staff, because before groundhogs took over weather prognostication, Hedgehog Day was already a thing.
"We like to tell people about how hedgehogs were supposedly used to predict the weather before groundhogs," says Darian Lindsay, communications coordinator at Chattanooga Zoo.
Hedgehog Day, which is also Feb. 2, was a Roman tradition that preceded Groundhog Day, according to daysoftheyear.com. Unfortunately for the hedgehog, its day got overshadowed by the groundhog's.
"The legend goes that ancient Romans believed weather conditions in early February were good predictors of future weather and they looked to hedgehogs for their forecasts because of their hibernation schedule. Immigrants brought this tradition to the United States, substituting native groundhogs, and Groundhog Day was born," Lindsay explains.
Throughout Sunday, zoo staff will share historical information with visitors about hedgehogs' use as early weather forecasters. Although Luna will be out for meet-and-greets, don't try to give her a hedge-hug because she's a "little prickly." That spiny exterior is her protection, and hedgehogs also have a habit of rolling themselves into a ball when they feel threatened or attacked.
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Contact Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.