I Say Hedgehog, You Say Groundhog, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off!

By STEPHANIE HYLINSKI

One of the hardest parts of being a zookeeper is saying goodbye to the animals in your care. The Live Animals Department at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery was saddened by the unexpected death of our groundhog, Rosie, in October of 2016. Rosie died due to complications from old age, as she was at least six years old. Groundhogs typically live 6-8 years under human care.

Rosie came to the Boonshoft Museum from the Wildlife Center of Minnesota in November of 2011. She had been found in the road running in circles and was taken to the Wildlife Center for rehabilitation. Rosie was not able to be released into the wild because of a head injury, so the Boonshoft Museum became her permanent home. Rosie was a wonderful ambassador for her species and an excellent weather forecaster. She predicted the weather at Groundhog Day for five years, and she was almost never wrong!

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                 Rosie the Groundhog

After the passing of Rosie, we realized that we would need to find a replacement very soon, as Groundhog Day was only a few months away. Rosie, and groundhogs in general, can be very lazy in a zoo setting, especially during the wintertime when they normally hibernate. Because we only have so much space in the Discovery Zoo, the Live Animals Department staff decided that another animal would better engage and educate our visitors. Instead of doing Groundhog Day in 2017, we were going to do Hedgehog Day! A hedgehog would not need as much space as a groundhog, and a hedgehog could also be an ambassador animal. Our ambassador animals travel to schools, senior centers, and other places around the community to educate people about animals, and give them a chance to meet the animals up close.

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                Quilliam the Hedgehog   

Now you may be thinking, “Hedgehog Day? Are you guys crazy?” Maybe! But Hedgehog Day has actually been around longer than Groundhog Day! Hedgehog Day began in the Roman Empire when folks considered the weather on Candlemas to predict future weather. Candlemas is a Christian holiday on February 2, and the saying goes:

“If Candlemas Day is clear and bright,
Winter will have another bite.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain
Winter is gone and will not come again.”

Legend has it that the Romans believed that conditions during the first days of February were good predictors of future weather, and they looked to hedgehogs for their forecasts. These two traditions melded in Germany and were brought over to the United States by German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania. Lacking hedgehogs, the German settlers substituted with native groundhogs, and Groundhog Day was born. Unlike modern Groundhog Day, the Romans watched to see if the hedgehog saw its shadow at night. This makes sense since hedgehogs are nocturnal!

We’re very excited for visitors to meet our four-toed hedgehog, Quilliam, on Groundhog Hedgehog Day! Come to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, February 2, to see if Quilliam predicts an early spring!

Travel The World Without Leaving the MidWest!

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The Dayton Museum of Natural History, 1958

While we’re only pretty sure that time travel isn’t an actual “thing” yet, the next best option for aspiring explorers may just be to visit a Museum!  From ancient artifacts and rare oddities to countless extinct specimens of animals that no longer roam the world, you can find a wide variety of history from across the globe at your local Natural History Museum.  Many Daytonians remember the Boonshoft Museum as the Dayton Museum of Natural History, when its cornerstone was its vast Collection of artifacts and specimens.  What many may not know is that our Collections remain a crucial aspect of the Boonshoft Museum today, as many of these items can be found in current exhibits, while the rest are maintained for future use and research.

With 1.7 million artifacts and specimens, there is something for all ages and interests to explore. Some of the most popular items include rare prehistoric fossils, skeletal remains of animals that existed during the Ice Age (Mammoth, Dire Wolf, Saber-Toothed Cat), gorgeous handmade jewelry, meteorites, Native American textiles, mummy remains, historic weapons, ancient pottery, and even a shrunken head.

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Map of the origins of all of our Collection’s pieces, click to enlarge.

Taking a tour of our Collection is literally a trip through time and across the world—which means our staff always jump at the chance to take a tour in order to familiarize them with the Museum. “Each time there is a good number of new staff, you can count on our Curators to host a tour of our Collection. I go every single time because there is always something I haven’t seen and it gives me the chance to experience things that I won’t ever see except for maybe in a book. Our Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, for instance, is extinct, but we have one in our Collection and it is special every time I see it, in addition to all of the other pieces of local and world history,” noted Erika Asher, Development Assistant at the Boonshoft Museum.

So, tell your friends and family to get ready to embark on a world tour through time, except you won’t need to pack a bag or cross an ocean. For the first time, we are opening our collection vaults to the public for extensive, behind-the-scenes tours. These tours are guided by our knowledgeable curators and available to small groups of up to eight people. Tours last 90 minutes and vary between $150-$200, depending on the number of people in your party. All proceeds from the private tours go to the preservation of our artifacts and the Boonshoft Museum’s mission.

You can learn more about the Museum’s Collection here.

You can start the process of booking a Private Tour here.

You can get a jump start on your “world travels” by seeing where all of our artifacts come from by clicking here.

Careers In Curiosity: Caring for 1.7 Million Pieces Of History

This week we are exploring careers at the Museum and because we are a Natural History Museum, Science and Technology Center, Children’s Museum, and Accredited Zoo—we certainly have a lot of curious careers to discover! Sarah Aisenbrey is a member of our Collections Department and will be filling us in on her amazing experience and duties at the Museum (hint: she gets to work with things that are thousands of years old! Read her guest blog by clicking the “read more” link!

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