Manitoba

New Winnipeg woodchuck forecasts long winter at Groundhog Day debut

It's the time of year when we turn away from evidence-based meteorology and put faith in the spring weather predictions of low-lying, yellow-toothed, bristly friends.

Winnipeg Wyn, Manitoba Merv spot their shadows, predicting 6 more weeks of cold and snow

Winnipeg Wyn's Groundhog Day debut

6 years ago
Duration 0:57
On this Groundhog Day, the Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre's Winnipeg Wyn predicts another six weeks of winter.

Manitoba's resident weather-predicting rodents agree: we're in for another month and a half of cold and snow.

Yep, it's the time of year again when we turn away from evidence-based meteorology and put faith in the spring weather predictions of low-lying, yellow-toothed, bristly friends.

Winnipeg Wyn is only eight months old but has taken over for Winnipeg Willow, who died days ahead of Groundhog Day last year. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

On this Groundhog Day, Oak Hammock Marsh's Manitoba Merv and the Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre's Winnipeg Wyn both predicted we're in for another six weeks of winter.

The pair of shadowy prophecies are at odds with other predictions across the country. Wiarton Willie and Shubenacadie Sam both failed to spot their shadows, forecasting an early spring.

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 Thursday.

Manitoba Merv spotted his shadow at Oak Hammock Marsh Thursday, which means we're in for another six weeks of winter this year. (Oak Hammock Marsh)

As tradition goes, if the four-legged creature spots its shadow, we're in for another six weeks of winter. No shadow and spring is just around the corner … maybe.

Rewriting the rules

But in Manitoba, we don't strictly adhere to Groundhog Day traditions.

Every year, Merv somehow temporarily springs from a state of lifelessness and emerges to share its weather wisdom. The fuzzy plush doll saw its shadow this year, experts confirm.

Wyn is another special, Manitoba-specifc case operating outside the rules. Despite predicting an extended winter season Thursday, the rookie oracle didn't technically see its shadow.

Rather than put an unreasonable amount of pressure on Wyn during its inaugural year, trainers with the Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre instead drew conclusions well before Groundhog Day by closely observing the small mammal's generally sleepy mood this winter.

That exhausted nature served as a substitute for old-fashioned shadow spotting, something the centre's president Lisa Tretiak said Wyn might be ready for next year.

Wyn was nonetheless trotted out for the public to see on Groundhog Day at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Kildonan.

Big paw prints to fill

This year there was one locally famous woodchuck that sadly wasn't in attendance. Wyn's predecessor, Winnipeg Willow, died days before Groundhog Day last year, and Willow's absence is still felt strongly by people at the Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.

"Quite a bit of a shock for us.… We later found out she did have a heart attack and her age did play a factor in that," said Tretiak. "She was six, but in general terms that would be a fairly old woodchuck."

Wyn took over for Winnipeg Willow, who died last year days before Groundhog Day. (CBC)

At just eight months old and about two kilograms, Wyn is a feisty replacement that stands to have a long career in the clairvoyance racket.

This was its first year in the spotlight, and while it could take time for Wyn to hone the skills Willow developed over the years, Tretiak is confident the little critter will come into its own in no time.

If life as a forecaster doesn't work out, Wyn might have a future in the art world. The critter showed off some of its abstract paw-print painting skills Thursday at the public event in Winnipeg.

"I think we all have a critical eye, but it's in the beholder. She will decide how much paint goes on that painting of hers," Tretiak said.

Wyn and the people at the Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre are wishing everyone a happy Groundhog Day. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

With files from Marcy Markusa

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