Shubenacadie Sam looks around after emerging from his burrow at the wildlife park in Shubenacadie, N.S. on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Sam saw his shadow and predicts six more weeks of winter. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Shubenacadie Sam looks around after emerging from his burrow at the wildlife park in Shubenacadie, N.S. on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Sam saw his shadow and predicts six more weeks of winter. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Canada’s weather-predicting groundhogs call for early spring

As usual, Shubenacadie Sam was the first groundhog in North America to make a prediction

Canada’s best-known weather-predicting groundhogs called for an early spring Tuesday as they delivered their annual forecasts over video due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though one was missing in action.

Nova Scotia’s most famous groundhog, Shubenacadie Sam, was the first to make his prediction, hesitantly emerging from his pint-sized barn and apparently failing to see his shadow.

At exactly 8 a.m. local time, the door to Sam’s enclosure was opened, but the pudgy rodent refused to come out at first.

With a winter storm descending on the Maritimes overnight, there was a steady snowfall as Sam emerged from his den and waddled a few paces from the front door.

The annual tradition at the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park north of Halifax usually attracts scores of schoolchildren, but not this year. There were few onlookers Tuesday as the event was broadcast live on Facebook to comply with COVID-19 health protocols.

As usual, Shubenacadie Sam was the first groundhog in North America to make a prediction.

In Val d’Espoir on Quebec’s Gaspe peninsula, Fred La Marmotte was also reluctant to leave his miniature cabin.

When the rodent did finally emerge during the livestreamed event, his handler held him to his ear and said he had predicted an early spring.

In Wiarton, Ont., the community’s famous albino groundhog, Wiarton Willie, was nowhere to be seen as officials called an early spring after throwing a fur hat into the air — a move they said hearkens back to the tradition’s first edition more than 60 years ago.

“The committee decided to pay tribute to the first prediction (which did not include a groundhog, only a fur hat) because it was the 65th anniversary this year and we were not able to host a live event due to COVID,” the town’s deputy clerk said in an email.

The spring forecast was delivered by Janice Jackson, the mayor of the Town of South Bruce Peninsula, in a pre-recorded video that also included a brief history of the event.

Meanwhile, those south of the border were told to expect six more weeks of winter as Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his burrow.

The critter performed his Groundhog Day duties over livestream, with more than 15,000 viewers tuning in at one point. No spectators were allowed in person due to the pandemic, but cardboard cutouts were included to mimic their presence.

A member of Phil’s “inner circle” noted the uniqueness of the past year.

“People have been referencing Groundhog Day. It has felt like at times we’re all living the same day over and over again,” one of the members said. “Groundhog Day also shows us that the monotony ends. The cycle will be broken.”

According to folklore, if a groundhog doesn’t see his shadow on Groundhog Day, spring-like weather will soon arrive. However, if the pug-nosed critter spots his shadow, winter will drag on.

Folklorists say 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.

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.

-with files from The Associated Press

The Canadian Press

News and Weather

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

Just Posted

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Surrey Mounties says they seized a luxury car, drugs and cash in Newton. (Photo: Surrey RCMP)
Surrey gang cops seize Alfa Romeo Stelvio, drugs and cash in Newton

This happened in the neighbourhood of 121A Street and 85A Avenue on Feb. 20

Surrey Police Service cruiser. (File photo)
Surrey Police Service hires third deputy chief constable, three superintendants

Todd Matsumoto will be in charge of the Investigative Services Bureau

Surrey RCMP are looking for information about a hit-and-run on Feb. 13 that they say involved this black BMW sedan. (Photo: Surrey RCMP)
Police search for owner of car after woman hit while walking on sidewalk in Surrey

RCMP say black BMW sedan drove up onto sidewalk and hit pedestrian in Newton on Feb. 13

Members of the public will have a chance to learn about a proposal for three buildings ranging in height from 12 to 24 storeys in Semiahmoo Town Centre. A second virtual information meeting is scheduled for today (Feb. 25) and full details are also available at www.aplinmartin.com/semiahmoo. (First Capital photo rendering)
Public voice concerns about Semiahmoo highrises during virtual meeting

Proposed development could be delayed by ‘marketing philosophy’

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after a news conference at the legislature in Victoria on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. reports 559 new cases of COVID-19, one death

4,677 cases of the virus remain active in the province; 238 people are in hospital

Vancouver Canucks left wing Antoine Roussel (26) tries to get a shot past Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) during second period NHL action in Vancouver, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks cough up 3-0 lead, fall 4-3 to visiting Edmonton Oilers

Vancouver falls to 8-13-2 on the NHL season

Jessica McCallum-Miller receives her signed oath of office from city chief administrative officer Heather Avison on Nov. 5, 2018 after being elected to Terrace City Council. McCallum-Miller resigned on Feb. 22, 2021, saying she felt unsupported and unheard by council. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Terrace’s 1st Indigenous councillor resigns citing ‘systemic and internalized racism,’ sexism

McCallum-Miller said in a Facebook post she felt unheard and unsupported by council

Temporary changes to allow for wholesale pricing for the hospitality industry were implemented June 2020 and set to expire March 31.	(Pixabay photo)
Pubs, restaurants to pay wholesale prices on liquor permanently in COVID-recovery

Pre-pandemic, restaurateurs and tourism operators paid full retail price on most liquor purchases

Wade Dyck with Luna, a dog who went missing near the Chasm for 17 days following a rollover on Feb. 5. (Photo submitted).
Dog missing for 17 days through cold snap reunited with owner in northern B.C.

Family ecstatic to have the Pyrenees-Shepherd cross back home.

Quesnel RCMP confirmed they are investigating a residential break-in at a home on the Barkerville Highway. (File image)
Thieves make off with $300K in Cariboo miner’s retirement gold

Tim Klemen is offering a reward for the return of his gold

Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested in New Hampshire. Image: The Canadian Press
Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell makes third attempt at bail on sex charges

Maxwell claims she will renounce her U.K. and French citizenships if freed

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Feds agree people with mental illness should have access to MAID — in 2 years

This is one of a number of changes to Bill C-7 proposed by the government

Most Read