MILWAUKEE — There will be a twist Friday, Feb. 2 during Groundhog Day festivities at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Zoo officials announced the resident polar bear, Snow Lilly, will take the spotlight and make the Groundhog Day prediction after the passing of groundhog Wynter in March.
According to zoo officials, Wynter had been part of the collection since arriving in 2009. Wynter passed away in March at an estimated 9-years-old. The average life expectancy of groundhogs is between six and eight years.
The Milwaukee County Zoo’s Groundhog Day tradition dates back to 1887, and though origins are not certain, it is said to have originated from ancient European weather lore in which a badger or bear predicts the weather, rather than a groundhog. Also a hibernating species, bears emerge about the same time as groundhogs — so zoo officials thought it fitting this year to follow early traditions and let Snow Lilly try her paw at predicting the long-range winter forecast!
The prediction will be made around 10:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 2 near the outdoor Polar Bear Exhibit. Snow Lilly will be summoned with her favorite treats of fish and peanut butter to make her first weather prognostication.
As legend goes, if it’s sunny and Snow Lilly sees her shadow, she’ll return to her den for six more weeks of winter, but if she does not see her shadow, we can expect an early spring!
Zoo officials said in a press release the celebration will include a free raffle for visitors to cast their votes to guess Snow Lilly’s weight. Several winners will be chosen, and will receive sought-after polar bear-themed accessories.
After Lilly’s prediction, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., you can join in polar bear activities inside Lakeview Restaurant.