Groundhog Day 2018: Mixed signals and a near escape

North American groundhogs have spoken, and although there were some differences of opinion, the majority of the forecasting rodents believe spring will spring sooner than later — while one was too busy sleeping.

N.S.'s Sam, Quebec's Fred predict early spring; Ont.'s Wiarton Willie, Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil don't

Wyn the woodchuck on its inaugural Groundhog Day on Feb. 2, 2017. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

North American groundhogs have spoken, and although there were some differences of opinion, the majority of the forecasting rodents believe spring will spring sooner than later — while one was too busy sleeping.

Nova Scotia's Shubenacadie Sam was the first of the famed furry prognosticators to emerge from their lairs on Groundhog Day, the popular tradition held every Feb. 2 in North America. The Weather Network says that according to folklore, if a groundhog sees its shadow, it will return to its burrow, indicating six more weeks of winter. If it doesn't go back into hiding, spring will arrive early.

Sam failed to see its shadow.

Fans looked on and let out loud cheers as Sam, which lives at the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park, scampered around the snowy grounds on the 30th anniversary of its annual weather prediction — until it tried to make a great escape.

The CBC's Brett Ruskin received a minor injury in a daring rescue to stop Sam before it got away. 

CBC's Brett Ruskin stops Shubenacadie Sam from making a quick getaway when no one is looking 0:29

But according to Sam's fellow groundhogs, we have a way to go before winter wilts.

Perhaps the most famous groundhog in the U.S. — Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil — saw its shadow, meaning more cold and blustery weather. At about 7:18 a.m. ET, the rodent made its prediction to a crowd of thousands.

Co-handler John Griffiths holds Punxsutawney Phil for the crowd gathered at Gobbler's Knob on the 132nd Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Penn., on Friday. (Alan Freed/REUTERS)

Ontario's Wiarton Willie emerged from its den at 8:07 a.m. to chants of, "Wake up Willie!"

The "king of perfect predictions," as officials called him, announced six more weeks of winter.

The mayor of South Bruce Peninsula, Janice Jackson, said this year's albino groundhog was found in a backyard as a replacement for the Willie that died last September. 

"He's doing a fantastic job this Willie," Jackson said to CBC London Morning's Julianne Hazlewood. "His eyes are blue which is lovely, so he's white with big beautiful blue eyes. He loves carrots and he's crazy about corn."

Val d'Espoir, Que.'s famed Fred la marmotte didn't see its shadow on Groundhog Day 2018. (CBC)

Fred la marmotte, the star groundhog in Val d'Espoir, Que., didn't see its shadow Friday morning.

More than 100 people gathered in Val d'Espoir in the Gaspé region to watch Fred's prediction.

In Winnipeg, there was some controversy in the groundhog world. 

The puppet at Oak Hammock Marsh, Manitoba Merv, called for an early spring because it didn't see its shadow.

But Winnipeg Wyn did see its shadow, predicting more wintry weather.

Merv, an inanimate stuffed animal, has been in the Groundhog Day game for more than two decades. But Wyn, a real-life woodchuck, is Manitoba's newest weather prognosticator and made its debut last year.

Winnipeg Wyn eats a strawberry after performing her duties predicting six more weeks of winter. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

Alberta's resident rodent, Balzac Billy, was cheered on for not seeing his shadow Friday.

And Vancouver's Van Island Violet was too busy hibernating to make any predictions this year, as per her annual tradition.

Rivalry with rodents

The unpredictability of these furry animals have led to some long-standing tensions. 

Meteorologists, including the CBC's Johanna Wagstaffe, can be a bit sensitive about sharing the forecasting spotlight, as seen in this clip dug up by CBC Digital Archives.

The off-screen voice of CBC meteorologist Percy Saltzman is heard reacting to a groundhog's prediction about winter. 0:22

With files from the Canadian Press