Today is Groundhog Day, and that means something a little different in Acadiana. Daily Iberian Publisher Christina Pierce says unlike our neighbors in the north, we celebrate Cajun Groundhog Day with a nutria rat. She adds that Pierre C. Shadeaux determines the weather a little differently than Punxsutawney Phil.

“If he does not see his shadow, that means that we will have a gentle spring and a little bit longer to go before we’re sweating,” Pierce said.

Today Pierre C. Shadeaux did not see his shadow, which means a nice spring is coming to Acadiana. While that’s a different outcome than Punxsutawney Phil delivered this morning, Pierce says it’s much more appropriate for Acadiana, especially given the area highs will reach the mid-70s today.

“They do a good job with Phil up north, but our weather is so different from theirs that we just needed something for our region,” Pierce said.

Pierce says every year they do an essay contest to ask local school children why Pierre C. Shadeaux is important to Acadiana, and the top three winners read their essays on Cajun Groundhog Day. She says it’s always a big event for the entire town, and spectators can get up close and personal with the nutria rat.

“He’s used to crowds, and he’s quite tame with his handler. She actually can hold him like a dog. So the kids got a chance to learn a little bit about nutria and see Pierre up close,” Pierce said.

Pierce says this is the 19th year the Daily Iberian has celebrated Cajun Groundhog Day with Pierre C. Shadeaux.