Ontario Premier Doug Ford checks out Wiarton Willie Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020 in Wiarton, Ont. with MPP Bill Walker laughing over his shoulder. Willie did not see his shadow and predicts an early spring. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Doug Ball

Canadian groundhogs divided on winter weather predictions

One groundhog saw his shadow but two others didn’t

The folksy, mid-winter tradition known as Groundhog Day saw Canada’s best-known shadow-casting critters divided in their weather predictions on Sunday.

Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam emerged from his burrow northeast of Halifax, and according to his handlers, saw his shadow. But in Ontario and Quebec, Wiarton Willie and Fred la Marmotte were paraded before their respective audiences and evidently saw no shadow.

Folklore has it that if a groundhog sees its shadow on Feb. 2, it will retreat into its burrow, heralding six more weeks of cold weather, which is not bad by most Canadian standards. No shadow is said to foretell spring-like temperatures are on the way.

Sam is always the first groundhog in North America to make a prediction about how long winter will last, with Willie offering a guess about an hour later.

This year, the festivities at Shubenacadie Wildlife Park surrounding Sam’s annual prognostication were cancelled this year due to a blustery snowstorm that hit the region on Saturday night.

But the fanfare went ahead in Wiarton, Ont., where Mayor Janice Jackson was joined by Premier Doug Ford and the so-called “shadow cabinet” to announce the rodent’s forecast.

The event was not without its share of excitement, however, when Jackson misinterpreted Willie’s supposed forecast.

She initially told the town crier that because the rodent saw no shadow, winter was here to stay.

“I messed up!” she told the crowd, laughing. “I messed up totally!”

The group on stage then repeated the ritual, with Jackson double checking before interpreting the critter’s prediction for the second time.

“What am I supposed to say?” she asked through a wide grin.

Willie was backed up by his Quebecois counterpart, Fred la Marmotte of Val-d’Espoir, who also suggested spring was nigh.

Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil also made an appearance Sunday morning with his top-hatted handlers before a huge crowd at Gobbler’s Knob, and predicted an early spring.

The Groundhog Day ritual may have something to do with Feb. 2 landing midway between winter solstice and spring equinox, but no one knows for sure.

Some say the tradition can be traced to Greek mythology, or it could have started with Candlemas, a Christian custom named for the lighting candles during the feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary.

One Scottish couplet summed up the superstition: “If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.”

In medieval Europe, farmers believed that if hedgehogs emerged from their burrows to catch insects, that was a sure sign of an early spring.

However, when Europeans settled in eastern North America, the groundhog was substituted for the hedgehog.

On the West Coast, they now call on marmots like Van Island Violet. Like groundhogs, marmots are a type of large ground squirrel.

For most winter-weary Canadians, Groundhog Day is a welcome distraction, but these pug-nosed rodents don’t have a great track record when it comes to long-term forecasting.

In his book, “The Day Niagara Falls Ran Dry,” climatologist David Phillips cites a survey of 40 years of weather data from 13 Canadian cities, which concluded there was an equal number of cloudy and sunny days on Feb. 2.

During that time, the groundhogs’ predictions were right only 37 per cent of the time.

VIDEO: Heavy rain on B.C. coast swells rivers, floods roads and forces evacuations

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Weather

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATED: Pat Bay Highway blockade ends three hours later

About 80 people from four major Peninsula First Nations blocking major highway

Central Saanich Police prepared for afternoon shut-down of Highway 17

Sgt. Paul Brailey questions efficacy of protest

Saanich students get on board Walking School Bus

Rogers Elementary students led by teachers and Saanich Police in new initiative

Fiddler on the Roof brings timely message to Oak Bay stage

Musical starts Friday in Dave Dunnet Theatre

City of Langford rebrands, announces several projects

‘Langford, where it all happens’ is the City’s new slogan

VIDEO: Province promotes ‘lifting each other up’ on 13th annual Pink Shirt Day in Victoria

Students, MLAs, community members gathered at B.C. Parliament Buildings Wednesday

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 25

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Prepare for new coronavirus like an emergency, health minister advises

About 81,000 people around the world have now become ill with COVID-19

B.C. residents in Wet’suwet’en territory have right to police presence: Public Safety Minister

Nevertheless, Bill Blair said officials remain ‘very anxious’ for the barricades to come down

Winnipeg police investigating graffiti on RCMP and other buildings

Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen denounced the vandalism

B.C. seniors’ watchdog calls for better oversight after recent problems at Retirement Concepts care homes

‘There is no financial incentive right now to be a good operator’ - Isobel Mackenzie

Trucking company fined $175K for Kootenay creek fuel spill

Decision handed down last Friday in Nelson court

B.C. Liberals call for ban on foreign funds to pipeline protesters

Sierra Club, Wilderness Committee back Coastal GasLink blockades

Most Read