Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Forecasting Groundhog Wiarton Willie Dies at 13

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Forecasting Groundhog Wiarton Willie Dies at 13

Article excerpt

Forecasting groundhog Wiarton Willie dies at 13

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The albino groundhog at the centre of Canada's most high-profile weather forecasting tradition has died.

Wiarton Willie, a famous contributor to Groundhog Day festivities, died on Friday, according to the Town of South Bruce Peninsula.

He was 13, more than three times the average age of his peers in the wild.

Various bearers of the Wiarton Willie name have been drawing crowds to the small central Ontario community of Wiarton for years by emerging from their dens and rendering their take on a light-hearted weather forecasting tradition.

Folklore dictates that if a groundhog sees his shadow, residents must endure six more weeks of winter. Failing to do so means warmer weather is on the way sooner than expected.

A release from South Bruce Peninsula said Willie has become a well-loved figure for locals and tourists alike, with the most recent incarnation being no exception.

"Willie was 13 years young and served our town, province and country with immense pride each and every Groundhog Day," said the release announcing his death. "Willie also enjoyed meeting the thousands of guests that would visit him at his home in Bluewater Park during the summer months."

The town attributed his long life to his thorough care regimen and protected living environment. Standard groundhogs typically only live to the age of four, it added, saying the lifespan of the albino groundhog is often even shorter.

Groundhog Day folklore dates back centuries to a medieval Christian tradition known as Candlemas.

Participants would light candles about halfway through the winter season to bring light to a dark and dreary time and eventually developed superstitions about the weather conditions on festival day.

Various cultures documented those superstitions in rhymes that essentially told the same tale. The most succinct of these rhymes is attributed to Scottish tradition. …

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