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Where's Waldo? Critter to make appearance

Woodchuck to predict weather at Groundhog event

Jan. 20, 2010

For the second year in a row Waldo, woodchuck and educational animal ambassador for WINC, will perform his role as sole prognosticator for southeastern Wisconsin. Will it be a short winter or will we have six more weeks to go? Only Waldo can tell.

Waldo was brought to WINC during the summer of 2008 after being rescued by a couple spending their vacation in an RV. The couple had tried to keep him as a pet and although WINC staff tried diligently throughout the remainder of the summer and fall to "wild" him up they were unsuccessful. The goal for each animal admitted to WINC is to rehabilitate it so that it can be released back to the wild, but if Waldo couldn't protect himself from predators he couldn't be released. When it isn't possible to release an animal, WINC evaluates their circumstances, injuries and temperament and if they meet certain requirements WINC looks for opportunities for permanent housing.

Oftentimes that is with a nature center or other educational facility, but if there is space and staff time WINC will occasionally add an animal to its own educational team. In Waldo's case, not only was he was young and healthy with an agreeable personality, WINC had recently lost its first educational woodchuck to cancer so Waldo couldn't have come at a better time.

The celebration of Groundhog Day arose from a variety of traditions, including some religious, some seasonal and some observational. It gradually became a time when both people as well as animals emerged from their winter slumber to welcome the strengthening sunshine, only to return in wait for the actual coming of spring. Groundhog Day is now held annually on Feb. 2 which also happens to be the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The most important thing is that the observance of this day gives those in cooler climates an excuse to celebrate, breaking up the monotony that leads to spring fever.

The Milwaukee Groundhog Club began in 1908 with a chance meeting of two men whose birthdays both happened to be Feb. 2. They met at the Blatz Hotel along with several others who were discovered to be "groundhogs." This year will mark their 102nd birthday as a group and they are proud to say that every shape, size and color of person (or groundhog) is invited to become a member, as long as their birthday is Feb. 2.

At 10 a.m. Education Coordinator Leslie Kiehl will perform an educational program about the Center including the entire group of educational animal ambassadors. At 11, handlers and Groundhog Club President Richard Perschon will present Waldo the woodchuck to make his prediction and at 11:45, participate in a meet-and-greet of WINC educational animal ambassadors up close.

For more information, contact WINC at (262) 968-5075 or e-mail Sheryl Cummings at, sacummings@help

For more information about the Milwaukee Groundhog Club, contact Richard Perschon, Keeper of the Burrow, (262) 691-3956.

If you go

Who: The Wildlife In Need Center and the Milwaukee Groundhog Club

What: Groundhog Day Celebration and prognostication of spring's arrival

When: 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2

Where: Upper Ballroom, Elks Lodge, 2301 Springdale Road, Waukesha

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