Josh Shaffer

This skunk predicted the Super Bowl winner. We’ll know Sunday whether his pick stinks.

As an 8-year-old quadruped, Florian the striped skunk has all the qualities required of a trustworthy Super Bowl prognosticator:

▪ 1. Intelligence. His keepers brag that he can solve a hidden-food puzzle in only 10 minutes – faster than anyone at ESPN.

▪ 2. Fairness. Skunks are native to nearly all corners of the United States, keeping them free of regional bias.

▪ 3. Athletic experience. Florian cut his weight from an obese 8 kilograms to a trim 4.2.

So on Wednesday morning, keepers at Durham’s Museum of Life and Science chose him from their collection of critters to predict Sunday’s big winner. Keeping to annual tradition, they placed a snack atop a picture of each team’s logo and set the hungry animal loose.

Snakes in habitats nearby raised their heads to watch as Florian sniffed around the room. Twice, he hunched his back to let out a blast of skunk musk – a harmless gesture since his scent glands have been removed. Then, with a shake of his bushy tail, Florian darted for the green and white helmet, munching his red pepper slice like a cheesesteak.

The skunk’s pick: Eagles. No word on a point spread.

“This is his first time,” warned Katy Harringer, the museum’s lead keeper and veterinary specialist. “I wouldn’t put my money on him.”

The museum’s menagerie boasts a long history of football forecasting. Three years ago, Filou the Opossum chose the New England Patriots to edge out the Seattle Seahawks – a prophecy that Seattle fans will wince to recall came true with a flubbed pass on the 1-yard-line. Filou’s marsupial cousin Galileo did the picking honors two years before.

“I can’t say that they’ve had a great track record,” said animal keeper specialist Jill Brown. “Previously, we’ve had Henry the Woodchuck, but he passed last year. One year, we had a tortoise. Hopefully, Florian will carry the torch.”

Florian, whose name is a variation on “Flower,” the skunk of “Bambi” movie fame, is bucking the oddsmakers. Most experts pick the Patriots, who were 6 point favorites as of Wednesday afternoon.

Super Bowl seers from the animal kingdom appeared split. The Patriots drew nods from Nick the Dolphin at Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida, but the Eagles found a sympathy vote from stingrays at a Galveston, Texas, theme park.

Though outwardly neutral, skunks do occupy an underdog role in the animal kingdom, notable mostly for their odor. Their most famous representative is Pepe Le Pew, a serial sexual harasser who hardly dares show his face.

So Florian might naturally favor the long shot, the two-time loser from the city made famous by a fictional palooka who drinks raw eggs. Come Sunday, the world may finally know the wisdom of the skunk, nature’s also-ran.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer