Early spring coming to southern Manitoba, weather-predicting puppet says

A plush groundhog puppet with a knack for seeing into the future says we don't have to worry about winter overstaying its welcome this year in southern Manitoba.

No shadow in sight as Manitoba Merv peeks around Oak Hammock Marsh

Manitoba Merv didn't see his shadow this Groundhog Day, meaning an early spring is on the way. (Oak Hammock Marsh)

A plush groundhog puppet with a knack for seeing into the future says we don't have to worry about winter overstaying its welcome this year in southern Manitoba.

Manitoba Merv took a peek around Oak Hammock Marsh early Tuesday and didn't see his shadow.

"While his track record is almost impeccable for the past 22 years, an erroneous prediction two years ago made some people doubt his forecasting ability," Oak Hammock Marsh said in a statement. "He had announced that an early spring was on its way, but winter seemed to last forever."

Somewhat conveniently, Merv's weathercast squares with Environment Canada's sophisticated, science-based estimations for the south. Somewhat predictably, other high-profile woodchucks and groundhogs in other parts of Canada have given conflicting reports of what's in store this spring. 

Winnipeg Willow, shown here on Feb. 2, 2015, died Friday. (CBC)
On a solemn note, Winnipeg Willow, one of Manitoba's other four-legged weather prognosticators, passed away just days before Groundhog Day at the mature age of five.

Willow was surrounded by friends and family at the Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre Friday when she crossed over to woodchuck heaven.

CBC Manitoba meteorologist John Sauder cast a little shade on the tradition before Merv even had a chance to not see his shadow.

"Just for the record: I trust the science of weather prediction a little more than the hairy rodent who either gets freaked out by his shadow — or not," Sauder said.

Groundhog Day is not a North American invention.

It's believed the holiday originated in medieval Europe, rooted in the Christian festival of Candlemas, and that hedgehogs were the soothsaying rodents of choice.

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