BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Who needs Punxsutawney Phil when Connecticut has its own prognosticating prairie dog, Beardsley Bart, from Bridgeport’s Beardsley Zoo?
The wily rodent stepped out early Tuesday morning and — just like Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil — he did not see his shadow, meaning spring will be here sooner than we think.
“Beardsley Bart is a very early riser, and when he came out this morning, he confirmed that he did not see his shadow," said Zoo Director Gregg Dancho, who speaks fluent Prairie Dog. “We’ve been doing this for a while now and, you know, he’s never been wrong.
“Spring has always come.”
Dancho doesn’t know exactly how Bart predicts the weather, but he has his suspicions. Fairfield University students who have been studying the zoo’s prairie dog “town” have found there are a few burrows they are unable to reach with their cameras.
“There may be a little war room down there. They may be plotting,” Dancho said, though he suspects that’s where 25 or so dogs stash their top-secret weather station.
Although he’s not as famous as his Pennsylvania counterpart — and he’s not technically a groundhog — Bart is a member of the rodent family that’s know for its friendly, sociable nature. They’re also known to be good watch dogs.
“He can also predict when a hawk is flying by. They make a yipping noise,” Dancho said. “This morning I think his sound was ‘Yip, yip, hooray!’ for the warm weather we’re having.”
The Beardsley Zoo has been announcing Bart’s predictions for about 15 years now, which is remarkable because most prairie dogs don’t live more than eight years.
“He’s like Lassie,” Dancho said. “There will always be a Bart.”
Fans can check out Bart and all his furry, finned and feathered pals at the zoo, which is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day except Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Adult admission is $14, and for children ages 3 to 11 and seniors over 62 it's $11. Children under 3 and zoo members are admitted free. Parking is free.
For more information, visit beardsleyzoo.org .
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