With temperatures hovering around the 30’s and occasional snow flurries blowing around the city, it may be up to Nibbles the Groundhog to give Asheville the good news it needs. The piliferous prognosticator has been predicting the arrival (or delay) of spring in Asheville for the past eight years.
From her home at the WNC Nature Center, Nibbles spends the winter in the warmth of the center’s barn only to emerge every February 2nd to check for her shadow. And as always, she will be joined by a celebrity Groundhog Whisperer to help translate Nibbles’ message. This year, that Celebrity Guest will be world-renown naturalist, author and radio host Dale Stewart.
Nibbles came to the WNC Nature Center as a pup, having been raised as a pet and then handed over to the center, and immediately took up the role of seasonal soothsayer.
Like the other animals at the WNC Nature Center, groundhogs are native to the region and they are most visible in August through September when they can be seen on roadsides and in clearings fattening up for hibernation through the winter. With a warm barn to live in during the cold months, Nibbles doesn’t hibernate, but spends the winter eating vegetables and kibble until it is time for the spotlight.
At nine years old, she is getting a little “long in the tooth,” Gentile says (In fact, groundhogs’ teeth never stop growing. They chew on hard kibble or chunks of wood to keep teeth a manageable length.)
But, he adds, Nibbles’ record has been great in recent years, and those years that were off, well, the groundhog whisperer has to share some of the blame. “Last year, she didn’t see her shadow,” Gentile remembers. “Then it warmed up in February and never looked back.”
The WNC Nature Center’s Groundhog Day Prediction will take place Monday, February 2 at 2 p.m. at 72 Gashes Creek Road and will feature Nibbles the Groundhog and official Groundhog Whisperer Dale Stewart. The program will feature special presentations, stories and songs celebrating Groundhog Day.
All activities are included with paid admission to the WNC Nature Center. Admission is $6 for adults ($8 for non-Asheville residents), $5 for seniors ($7 for non-Asheville residents), $4 for youth ages 3-15 and children age 2 and under are free.
For more information including directions and special programs visit the WNC Nature Center website at www.wncnaturecenter.com or contact Keith Mastin, Curator of Education at the Western North Carolina Nature Center, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-259-8082.
The WNC Nature Center is part of the City of Asheville Parks & Recreation Department and features over 250 animals native to the Southern Appalachians including red wolves, otters, birds of prey, black bears, and reptiles. The Nature Center is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and welcomes over 92,000 visitors annually.