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Mayor Admits Groundhog Was Dead on Groundhog Day

This has happened before, caretaker says
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 25, 2021 12:50 PM CST
Mayor Admits Groundhog Was Dead on Groundhog Day
Then-Mayor John Close listens to groundhog Wiarton Willie's weather prediction on Feb. 2, 2012.   (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

(Newser) – As Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, strange news has emerged about a different holiday north of the border. Authorities in South Bruce Peninsula have admitted that groundhog Wiarton Willie, the Canadian equivalent of Punxsutawney Phil, died of a tooth abscess before this year's Groundhog Day. While the pandemic made this year's Groundhog Day an unusual one, suspicions were still aroused when the town released a video showing Mayor Janice Jackson tossing a fur hat in the air to predict the weather, the Canadian Press reports. The mayor normally appears with the groundhog and pretends to be listening to him say whether he has seen his shadow, signaling a longer winter.

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Willie was an albino groundhog, but his replacement will be an ordinary brown groundhog, town spokeswoman Danielle Edwards said. "When the end of the summer was approaching and groundhogs hibernating, our window of opportunity was quickly closing, so we adopted a brown groundhog," she said. Edwards declined to comment on exactly when Willie died or on why it wasn't mentioned sooner.

This has happened before, according to longtime groundhog caretaker Sam Brouwer, former owner of Wiarton Willie's Motel. He tells the Canadian Press that he found a previous Willie dead —and frozen solid—just a week before Groundhog day in 1999. Brouwer recalls the crowd was shocked and children were upset that year when the annual ceremony featured a stuffed groundhog in a casket, with coins over its eyes, per the Toronto Sun. (Read more groundhog day stories.)

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