Paws up for spring, groundhogs predict

Four out of four groundhogs polled report that spring will come early this year.

Woodchucks in N.S., Ontario fail to see their shadows

Fourout offour groundhogspolledreport that spring will come early this year.

Wiarton's Mayor Gwen Gilbert smiles as she carries Wiarton Willie in Wiarton, Ont., on Friday. ((Nathan Denette/Canadian Press))

Shubenacadie Sam, a resident ofShubenacadie, N.S., came out of his home Friday morning, and didn't see his shadow.

That means spring is coming early, according to folklore. If Sam had seen his shadow, Canadians would facesix more weeks of shovelling snow and the other joys of winter.

"We had a great hurray over that, because we're going to have an early spring," Sue Penney, a spokeswoman for the provincial Department of Natural Resources, told the Canadian Press.

Sam's forecast was backed up by reports fromPunxsutawney Phil of Pennsylvania, Wiarton Willie from Ontario and Balzac Billy in Alberta.

The people of Wiarton insist Williehas beenaccurate 90 per cent of the time, but scientific studies show groundhogs are actually poor predictors of the weather. They're accurate only 37 per cent of the time, a worse predictor than flipping a coin.

Gwen Gilbert, mayor of Wiarton, Ont., centre, announces groundhog Willie's prediction - an early spring. ((CBC))

The original Wiarton Willie, an albino groundhog said to be 22 years old, died during hibernation during the winter of 1998-99. The legend there began in 1956.

Other places with weather-predicting woodchucks (another name for groundhog) include:

  • Brandon Bob in Manitoba.
  • Staten Island Chuck in New York.
  • Gary the Groundhog in Kleinburg, Ont.

In Balzac, RCMP had to direct traffic out of the community hall early Friday.

"That's how many people were here tosee Balzac Billy jump out of his burrow and not see his shadow," said CBC traffic reporter Angela Knight.

"They have stuffed him back into the burrow for next year."

With files from the Canadian Press