PHOENIX – The Phoenix Zoo celebrated Groundhog Day Saturday with a slight twist to the tradition by relying on the prairie dog to forecast the coming of spring or another six more weeks of winter.
Wendy Bianco is from the East Coast and she brought her daughters out to celebrate the day. Bianco is used to celebrating with Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog that officially forecasts the coming weather.
"They don't have that here so this is kind of the closest thing that we could do," she said. "It's just one of those little things that you just kind of miss. It's kind of like not having snow for Christmas."
At 10 a.m. it was time to feed the prairie dogs and officially check for their shadow, which turned out to be visible, meaning winter will last for another six weeks.
Jeremy Barlow is the special events planner for the Phoenix Zoo and was happy with the outcome.
"With temperatures in the mid-70s, if we call this winter I say we take it," he said.
This is the first year the zoo put on the Groundhog Day event with prairie dogs.
"It's good weather, it's a great time to come spend some time outside, see the animals at the zoo, spend time with family and friends," Barlow said. "So we thought let's do a little something extra and have Prairie Dog Day."
Prairie dogs are typically found in central North America. The Phoenix Zoo has about 22.
Every year on Feb. 2, crowds gather in Punxsutawney, Pa., to check for Punxsutawney Phil's shadow. According to the National Climatic Data Center, predictions for more recent years have not been accurate.