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The Milwaukee County Zoo’s Groundhog Day takes a new twist in 2018!

MILWAUKEE, WI – The Milwaukee County Zoo’s Groundhog Day festivities have always been a popular tradition for visitors and the community alike.  This year, on February 2, the Zoo’s activities take on a furry new twist, as another iconic Zoo animal will take the spotlight – the Zoo’s resident polar bear, Snow Lilly!

In 2017, we said goodbye to the Zoo’s groundhog, Wynter, who had been part of the collection since arriving in 2009.  Wynter passed away in March at an estimated age of 9.  Average life expectancy of groundhogs is between 6 and 8 years.

The 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, the Zoo thought it fitting this year to follow early traditions and let Snow Lilly try her hand (or paw) at predicting the long-range winter forecast!

The public is invited to visit the Zoo at 10:30 a.m. Friday, February 2 and gather near the outdoor Polar Bear Exhibit where 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!

​The celebration includes 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!  A group of third-grade students from the Milwaukee Montessori School will be joining the festivities.

​After Lilly’s prediction, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., join in polar bear activities inside Lakeview Restaurant. Touch and see polar bear artifacts like a pelt and radio collar; show your creative side and make a polar bear craft to take home, learn more about climate change affecting wild polar bears and what you can do to help conserve them.  Purchase polar bear cookies and hot chocolate to benefit the Milwaukee Chapter of the American Association of Zookeepers’ (AAZK) “Trees for You and Me” program. This competition among national AAZK chapters promotes the quest to fight climate change by providing a grant to support reforestation and habitat revitalization projects.  Please join us to support our zookeepers and polar bears!  

Zoo visitors are invited to celebrate Groundhog Day at the Milwaukee County Zoo and watch as Snow Lilly makes her weather prediction at the outdoor Polar Bear Exhibit, at 10:30 a.m., February 2. Visitors who have birthdays on February 2 will be admitted free to the Zoo on this day. Present your identification at the admissions gate.

For more information, please call the Zoo’s Marketing and Communications Department at 414.256.5466.