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Vernon weather-predicting stuffie primed for Groundhog Day

Okanagan Okie, marmot mascot at Allan Brooks Nature Centre, will make bold prediction Feb. 2
Centre manager Cheryl Hood holds Okanagan Okie the stuffed groundhog, who helped mark the first ever Groundhog Day at the Allan Brooks Nature Centre Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. Okie is buffed and primed for his second appearance on Thursday, Feb. 2, predicting how much longer the Okanagan winter will last. (Morning Star - file photo)

Okanagan Okie is primed for his annual appearance.

Vernon’s Allan Brooks Nature Centre’s marmot mascot will be at the centre Thursday, Feb. 2,— Groundhog Day. The little yellow-bellied marmot has, according to centre staff, been “hitting the dumbbells, preening his fur and perfecting his smile for the upcoming weather prediction of will there be more winter or an early spring.

“Last year was a titch off the mark for the last prediction, but Okie promises to increase the percentages and make the right call.

The event will see a number of local dignitaries, including Beach FM’s Rebecca Barton in the emcee spot.

“For many years we’ve been in awe of our furry friends out east,” said Barton. “In Nova Scotia, the famous Shubenacadie Sam has been prognosticating for years, and arguably the most famous Canadian Groundhog, Ontario’s Wiarton Willie, continues to make us smile no matter what the prediction.

“We are more than excited to add Okanagan Okie to the mix of adorable rodents. As a fan of winter, I am hoping Okie sees his shadow and runs back into his den, and we can enjoy six more weeks of cozy, snowy nights.”

On the flip side of that sentiment is ABNC manager Cheryl Hood, who is ready to see an end to the snowfall.

“We’re looking forward to the grassland animals renewing their spring and summer activity,” said Hood. “We’re ready to put away the toques and fur boots, and there’s a bit of a wager here now. If Okie sees a shadow I might owe Rebecca a lot of coffee for the next while.”

ABNC plans to hold a 50/50 draw for people to estimate the date and time the first Marmot emerges at ABNC this spring.

“There’s no doubt folks in the Okanagan are better acquainted with the marmot than most,” said Hood. “Many people tolerate their antics and get a chuckle from these ground-dweller’s antics. They indeed burrow but are also a key food source for other grassland animals including raptors and coyotes.”

ABNC organizers and volunteers will prepare the grassland theatre so people get a good view of Okie looking for a shadow outside the Marmot City burrow. In winter, marmots’ heart rates drop to about three-to-six beats

per minute.

They wake periodically to move and get warm, then return to a state of torpor (physical or mental anxiety; lethargy). They also go into deeper burrows, some up to 20 feet deep in winter.

On Feb. 2, the public is welcome to visit the Allan Brooks Nature Centre off Commonage Road to get a first-hand look at Okie’s prediction.

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