Feb 2, 2024 - News

Move over, Punxsutawney Phil. Sassafras the bear has the real forecast.

Photo shows a bear sniffing a box that says "early spring"

Sassafras is a young Louisiana black bear who lives at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. Photo: Courtesy of Audubon Nature Institute

Sure, Punxsutawney Phil may be the most well-known animal prognosticator, but it's a Louisiana black bear cub who has our hearts on Groundhog Day.

What's happening: Sassafras is a young black bear at Audubon Zoo who has replaced Parish the nutria for meteorological duties.

  • Parish has gone to the great nutria party in the sky, zoo spokesperson Melissa Lee tells Axios New Orleans. But don't worry — Sassafras is ready to go.

The forecast: "Spring is on the way," Sassafras tells her human interpreters at the zoo. Parade-goers won't have to bundle up for Mardi Gras, she predicts.

The background: German lore says winter will last for six more weeks if a hedgehog leaves its burrow Feb. 2 and sees its shadow, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.

  • If he doesn't see his shadow, then spring comes early.

By the numbers: Pennsylvania-based Phil correctly predicted an early spring 69% of the time over the past 75 years, according to last year's Axios analysis of NOAA data.

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