News Release

Jan. 22, 2010

Contact: Sondra Katzen
Media Relations


Note: Images of Brookfield Zoo’s groundhogs may be downloaded at

Furry Forecasters at Brookfield Zoo Take Center Stage on Groundhog Day

Brookfield, IL—On February 2, groundhogs can still be hibernating, but staff at Brookfield Zoo are hoping that Children’s Zoo’s furry meteorologists will peek out of their winter digs for guests during the annual Groundhog Day celebration at 10:30 a.m. To encourage Tumbleweed and Cloudy to make an appearance, the zoo’s chefs will have prepared sweet potato cakes especially for them.

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.

Normally at this time of year, when the air temperature is a consistent 50°F or below, groundhogs are hibernating. During this dormant state, 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.

After the weather prediction is announced, guests are invited to join in the Groundhog Day Parade led by the zoo’s woodchuck costumed character. The parade kicks off outside the Children’s Zoo entrance and concludes at Hamill Family Play Zoo, where youngsters can create groundhog shadow puppets to taken home.

While at the Play Zoo, guests can see some critters that inspired the inception of Groundhog Day in Europe. In the 18th century, hedgehogs—which are indigenous to Europe, where winters are typically milder than in North America’s Midwest—came out of hibernation in early February. Their appearance was a sign to farmers that it was time to begin spring planting. Since there are no hedgehogs native to the United States, the tradition was transferred to groundhogs. A special Zoo Chat about hedgehogs will be held at 11:30 a.m.

On Groundhog Day, Brookfield Zoo is free as well as admission to Children’s Zoo and Hamill Family Play Zoo. Parking is $9. The Groundhog Day celebration is sponsored by American Airlines. For further information, visit the zoo’s Web site at or call (708) 688-8000.

Celebrating its 75thyear, the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, inspires conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. Open every day of the year, Brookfield Zoo is located off First Avenue between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294),Metra commuter line, CTA, and PACE bus service.

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