Quilliam the Hedgehog will be rolling in to a very big role: groundhog.
The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery just announced that Rosie the Groundhog died unexpectedly on Oct. 6 and that Quilliam, its new African Pygmy Hedgehog, will step into her place during the museum’s Groundhog Day ceremony, held at 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 2.
Rosie was just 6.
Mark Mazzei, the Boonshoft’s curator of live animals, said a necropsy report discovered a large cancerous mass on her liver.
“She died just very suddenly,” he said. “She had a lot of health things going on that were puzzling.”
While groundhogs typically live only 6 to 8 years in the wild, groundhogs in captivity have lived as long as 14 years.
Mazzei said the museum typically doesn’t announced the passing of animals unless they are high profile.
“It was not meant to be any cover up,” he said of the delayed public announcement of Rosie’s passing.
Groundhogs have been used to predict the weather at the museum for about 20 years.
Rosie made her first prediction on Feb. 2, 2012 (six more weeks of winter), while Ivy, the Boonshoft’s go-to-groundhog for 11-years, hibernated.
Ivy was humanely euthanized on Feb. 28, 2012, after efforts to reduce fluid on her lungs and heart proved unsuccessful.
After Rosie’s passing, Mazzei said that the museum made the tough decision not to get another groundhog.
“They are very popular on that day (Groundhog Day), but they spend a lot of time sleeping,” he said. “They are not very exciting the rest of the years.”
The museum gets most of its animals from wildlife rehab centers or other Association of Zoos and Aquariums certified facilities.
“We never go out and collect animals from the wild,” Mazzei said.
As in the case of Quilliam, the Boonshoft occasionally gets animals from breeders.
Mazzei said Quilliam (pronounced like “William”) was the cutest of the baby hedgehogs a Huber Heights breeder offered.
He joined the Boonshoft’s zoo in November, at just four weeks old.
“They grow really fast,” Mazzei said, noting that Quilliam fits in the palm of his hand and will be full size in three or four months.
He will be picking up an ancient baton passed down from hedgehog-kind.
The Boonshoft has created a house for Quilliam similar to the one used by Rosie and other museum groundhogs.
His is just much smaller.
They are using positive reinforcement to train him.
“Our goal is to try to have him come out of the house onto the porch,” Mazzei said. “We will wait to see if he see his shadow or not.”