Richard Perschon of the Milwaukee
Groundhog Club looks over Winnie on Friday at the Wildlife in Need
Center. The Groundhog Club almost didn’t have a groundhog for
its 100th anniversary but the Wildlife in Need Center stepped in
to help the club.
CITY OF PEWAUKEE - The news that a
groundhog would not be available for the Milwaukee Groundhog Club’s
100th celebration of Groundhog Day worried Richard Perschon, the club’s
keeper of the burrow.
Perschon, of City of Pewaukee, said he was left searching for a
replacement groundhog in December after he learned the Milwaukee County
Zoo would not be getting a new groundhog to replace the one that had died
that year. The Milwaukee Groundhog Club had previously held its annual
Feb. 2 celebration at the zoo.
"I called the zoo back in July because we wanted to make it special
for the 100th," Perschon said about the celebration.
Word got out about the club’s predicament.
The Wildlife In Need Center in the town of Ottawa stepped forward,
offering Winnie the groundhog’s services to the club.
"We were looking and they came forward. I am very happy they
did," Perschon said. "Fortunately they came forward and now we
Sheryl Kluth, marketing and development coordinator for the WINC, said the
center was happy to be able to step forward.
"We are looking to extend
collaboration with organizations," she said. "It was a good
opportunity to help this organization."
Winnie is one of six animals that travel to schools to educate children.
The other animals include an endangered ornate box turtle, a native fox
snake and a Muskovy duck.
"We like to get our name out there as much as possible and that we’re
here to help," Kluth said.
Perschon said he has been able to visit Winnie and to get to hold and pet
"She just loves it," he said.
Kluth said Winnie is nicknamed "Princess" because she loves
"She’s pretty spoiled. She likes to be the center of
attention," she said.
At 11 pounds, Winnie is a bit overweight, Kluth said. She loves to eat
greens, pumpkins and peas. Winnie is a success story as she was
rehabilitated after being hit by a car, but the permanent damage from the
accident prevented her from being able to survive in the wild, Kluth said.
The fact that Winnie loves attention will help her as she will be the
center of attention Feb. 2 at the Waukesha Elks Lodge, 2301 Springdale
As enthusiasts gather, Winnie will predict if there is six more weeks of
winter to come or if we’ll soon be seeing the first signs of spring.
Volunteers from the WINC will be at the event with Winnie and will be
ready to provide information.
"What we’re trying to emphasize with this event is that we’ll be
able to answer questions," Kluth said.
Perschon said the day is kept fun and entertaining.
"We’re a fun group. We don’t take ourselves too seriously,"
To be a member of the Milwaukee Groundhog Club, your birthday must be on
Feb. 2, or Groundhog Day. The group was originally started in 1908, when
two men met in a Milwaukee barbershop and learned that both of their
birthdays were that day, so they decided to celebrate, said Perschon.
Perschon is a member of the Groundhog Club because his birthday is Feb. 2,
he likes to have a good time and he respects groundhogs.
"They are a cool animal. They are very smart," he said.
Katherine Michalets can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org