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Groundhogs Around The World: Poppy the Groundhog

Last year saw the introduction of a new member to the Groundhog Day forecasting scene. That groundhog’s name is Poppy and she has quickly become one of the most popular groundhog weather predictors in the country.

Poppy lives with her handler and caretaker, Betsy, in Millersville, Pennsylvania. During the Spring of 2019, while Betsy was sub-permitting under a rehabilitator, Poppy came in for care. A man living in Conestoga, Pennsylvania discovered the young groundhog wandering around his driveway with her eyes still closed. After observing Poppy for a day or two, he was able to determine that Poppy was all alone and took her into rehabilitation.

Poppy The Groundhog
Poppy the Groundhog. Photo courtesy of Acorn Acres Wildlife Rehabilitation.

During the process of rehabilitating Poppy and preparing her for the wild, it was discovered she had a birth defect called malocclusion (misaligned teeth). After consulting with several veterinarians her birth defect was deemed permanent and she was not releasable; she would never live a wild life. Her affected incisors were removed by a veterinarian and her training as an Ambassador with her caretaker, Betsy, began.

Poppy The Groundhog
Poppy the Groundhog in snow. Photo courtesy of Acorn Acres Wildlife Rehabilitation.

Plans were already in place for Poppy to provide her first Groundhog Day prediction in 2020, when Betsy was contacted in mid-January of that year by a friend of hers who was an animal agent in New York. The agent wanted to use Poppy in a commercial the following weekend. Initially Betsy refused, due to commitments to her business. The agent was persistent and eventually, after enough begging, Betsy agreed to rearrange her schedule so that Poppy could be in the commercial. After a brief stage call (pictures) they were asked to be in Woodstock, Illinois that Friday, and after obtaining permission from the states involved, Betsy and Poppy travelled there.

Poppy The Groundhog
Poppy the Groundhog in a Jeep. Photo courtesy of Acorn Acres Wildlife Rehabilitation.

The day before they departed for Illinois, Betsy’s agent friend told her that they were shooting a commercial for Jeep featuring Bill Murray reprising his role from the 1993 film Groundhog Day. That’s right, Poppy was going to be standing in for Punxsutawney Phil in the role that the groundhog Scooter had originated so many years before. Poppy filmed for two days with Bill Murray, and things went so well that they were asked to stay an additional day for more filming.

Poppy The Groundhog
Poppy the Groundhog with Bill Murray. Photo courtesy of Acorn Acres Wildlife Rehabilitation.

The weekend after the shoot was a big one. Poppy gave her first Groundhog Day prognostication that Saturday, February 1st, and the following day, on Groundhog Day, Poppy was at Ville + Rue, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania launching her merchandise: Poppy Pillows and Totes. A portion of the proceeds are donated for wildlife rehabilitation. That same evening Poppy’s Jeep commercial with Bill Murray aired during the Superbowl. The commercial was well received and considered by many to be the best commercial that aired during the game. People fell in love with Poppy and she gained instant fame. The ad agency responsible for the commercial, Highdive Advertising in Chicago, was even nominated for an Emmy for best commercial. Although the ad didn’t win, Poppy had an acceptance speech prepared just in case.

Poppy The Groundhog
Poppy the Groundhog with her merchandise Photo courtesy of Acorn Acres Wildlife Rehabilitation.

Following Poppy’s first Groundhog Day, the launch of her own merchandise, and the airing of the Jeep commercial, Betsy decided that she would start her own rehabilitation center. This is a dream that she had long had, but had not pursued. This new rehabilitation center is called Acorn Acres Wildlife Rehabilitation and specializes in groundhogs, squirrels, and bunnies, aiming to give these animals a second chance at life. Poppy is one of the Educational Ambassador Animals for the organization. At this time the center is not accepting wildlife as they are currently in the permit application process with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. You can follow the organization on Facebook or check out their website to find out when those permits are obtained and it is open for business.

At this point, due to COVID-19, it’s not known what Poppy’s Groundhog Day event for 2021 will look like, but details should be released soon on Poppy’s social media. Be sure to follow Poppy on Facebook to find out her plans for this Groundhog Day, as well as to see frequent adorable updates from her.

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