RIP Wiarton Willie: Spring prognosticator dies at 13

Wiarton Willie, the albino groundhog whose annual weather prognostication is a national event and draws large crowds every Goundhog Day, has died at the age of 13.

Officials say Willie's 2-year-old understudy 'Wee Willie' will assume his role immediately

Wiarton Willie is seen in his enclosure in the summer. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Wiarton Willie is dead. 

The albino groundhog whose annual weather prognostication is a national event and draws large crowds every Groundhog Day was 13 years old.

The Town of South Bruce Peninsula announced Wednesday that Willie lived three times longer than the average groundhog, which can normally expect to reach the age of four.
Wiarton Willie lived in an enclosure in Wiarton that was created by the Toronto Zoo to mimic a groundhog's natural habitat. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

According to folklore, when a groundhog sees its shadow on Feb. 2, winter will last another six weeks. If the groundhog emerges from its burrow on a cloudy day, spring will come early. 

A memorial service is planned for Saturday, Sept. 30, at 11 a.m. in Wiarton's Bluewater Park "in gratitude for his many years of service," a news release said. 

A funeral procession will then travel through the park to a statue of Willie's likeness, where the albino groundhog will be honoured, according to the town. 

Children climb on the statue of Wiarton Willie's likeness in Bluewater Park in the Town of South Bruce Peninsula. (Kate Bueckert/CBC News)