PORTLAND, Ore. - It might be nice outside now, but don't pack those scarves and mittens away just yet. Mayzie, an African pygmy hedgehog at the Oregon Zoo, saw her shadow Sunday -- just like Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phill -- indicating six more weeks of winter could be in store.
At 10:30 a.m., visitors gathered in the Portland zoo's entry plaza to watch the proceedings, some bearing signs with slogans like "Hedgehogs RULE!" and "HEY, Punxsutawney Phil! You Ain't Nothin' but a Groundhog!!"
"The groundhog is actually a latecomer to the game," said zoo director Kim Smith, who presided over the Hedgehog Day festivities. "It was only when immigrants to the United States realized their new home didn't have hedgehogs that they turned to the groundhog. Mayzie is bringing the holiday back to its origins. Plus, we think she's cuter than Phil."
Tradition — and cuteness — might have to count for a lot. According to records from StormFax Weather Almanac, Phil's predictions have been correct about 39 percent of the time. Oregon Zoo hedgehogs have been slightly less successful, with a 33 percent accuracy rate.
"Last year, our hedgehog predicted six more weeks of winter too, which did not end up being all that accurate here in the Northwest," Smith said. "But our hedgehogs do have nearly the same success rate as Punxsutawney Phil. And this is Mayzie's first time forecasting, so she's never been wrong."
The zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Oregon silverspot and Taylor's checkerspot butterflies, western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs.
Other projects include studies on Asian elephants, polar bears, orangutans and giant pandas. The zoo relies in part on community support through donations to the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs.
The zoo opens at 10 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Call TriMet Customer Service, 503-238-RIDE (7433), or visit www.trimet.org for fare and route information.
General zoo admission is $11.50 (ages 12-64), $10 for seniors (65 and up), $8.50 for children (ages 3-11) and free for those 2 and younger; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo's Future for Wildlife program. Additional information is available at www.oregonzoo.org or by calling 503-226-1561.