Michiana's newest forecaster: meet Potawatomi Poppy

NOW: Michiana’s newest forecaster: meet Potawatomi Poppy

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Move over, Punxsutawney Phil! Michiana has a new groundhog ready to give her forecast on February 2.

Groundhog's Day is a popular winter weather tradition all across the country, culminating when Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his burrow and predicts what the rest of the winter season has in store for us.

The Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend rescued a groundhog, named Potawatomi Poppy, last fall. She is an Animal Ambassador for the zoo. When she isn't needed for her forecasting abilities, she lives in a warm barn at the zoo with lots of places to run and hide.

Now, she is getting ready to be the star of the holiday right here at home.

Amanda Brunson-Cruz is the Education and Volunteer Coordinator at the zoo, and she introduced us to this furry forecaster.

"She's a rodent. She's one of the bigger rodents you can find around here," Brunson-Cruz explained.

Groundhogs, also called woodchucks, live all around us in Michiana. They can be found in the eastern United States into southern Canada. There may be some in your own backyard.

"These guys dig really impressive burrows that can be two to six feet deep and over 40 feet long," she said.

So how did this burrowing critter lead to a holiday?

"In some cases, if she's near a burrow and she's startled, she'll often run back inside," Brunson-Cruz answered. "So if she were to see something new or hear a weird noise, she'd go seek safety and her burrow."

She went on to tell us that the tradition of Groundhog's Day actually started in Germany, but groundhogs don't live there. The original holiday started with badgers.

Now, the folklore goes that if a groundhog is startled by its own shadow, and seeks shelter in its burrow, we will see six more weeks of winter.

Poppy will be put to the test this week.

"She will definitely do a forecast for us," Brunson-Cruz shared. "I think she'll do a better job than Punxsutawney Phil personally, but we'll have her out that morning and see what happens." 

If Poppy isn't scared - meaning she doesn't see her shadow - the folklore says that spring is just around the corner.

She is set to give her prediction around 10 a.m. on February 2, at her home, the zoo. The zoo is not currently open for the season for any in-person visitors for this event, but they will do a Facebook Live event for you and your family to watch her report.

Do we think she will give a better forecast than a meteorologist?

"Probably not," Brunson-Cruz laughed. "But she's still very cute."


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