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End of winter? Prairie dogs say it's not far away

It was cloudy and a bit muggy Saturday morning, so it was predictable that the prairie dogs at the Lake Superior Zoo wouldn't see their shadows. A couple came out of their burrows to find out, anyway.

It was cloudy and a bit muggy Saturday morning, so it was predictable that the prairie dogs at the Lake Superior Zoo wouldn't see their shadows. A couple came out of their burrows to find out, anyway.

It was Groundhog Day, after all, and they weren't about to let their larger cousins get the best of them.

The prognosis: negative. No shadows here -- just a corn cob that one prairie dog gleefully pounced on for gnawing.

Failure to observe a shadow traditionally means that winter will be over soon. The reality, according to Declan Cannon of the National Weather Service office in Duluth, is much different.

"We don't see anything here that would make the prediction of a little rodent in any way accurate," said Cannon, who added that winter weather typically extends into March. "I'll have to go with the law of averages here," he said.

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In the past, the zoo has used porcupines to gauge how many more weeks of winter there are left to endure, but not this year.

"We wanted to try something different, and they're more closely related to the groundhog than the porcupine," said Anita Alberding, the marketing director of the Lake Superior Zoological Society.

Asked if they felt snubbed, the porcupines declined to comment -- but they bristled visibly.

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