Furry forecasters take center stage on Groundhog Day

African pygmy hedgehog "Quilliam"/Boonshoft Museum Discovery Zoo

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (AP) – From Buckeye Chuck to Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhogs are ready for their big day.

The handlers of Pennsylvania’s most famous groundhog are set to announce whether the rodent will predict an early spring or six more weeks of winter.

Members of Punxsutawney Phil’s top hat-wearing inner circle plan to reveal their forecast at sunrise, just before 7:30am Thursday.

Buckeye Chuck, from Marion, Ohio, will be making his prediction at about 7:40am. This will be Buckeye Chuck’s 38 year of predicting an early spring or extended winter.

In Dayton, Boonshoft Museum is putting a different spin on Groundhog Day. Instead of the traditional groundhog forecaster, the Discovery Zoo’s African pygmy hedgehog Quilliam will look for his shadow.  The program begins at 10 a.m. on Thursday and admission is free, not including general museum admission.

The festivities have their origin in a German legend that says if a furry rodent casts a shadow on Feb. 2, winter continues. If not, spring comes early.

In reality, Phil’s prediction is decided ahead of time by the group on Gobbler’s Knob, a tiny hill just outside Punxsutawney. That’s about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Records dating to 1887 show Phil predicting more winter 102 times while forecasting an early spring just 18 times – including last year. There are no records for the remaining years.

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