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

Hannah Ankenmann, who works with k’awat’si Economic Development Corporation, winces as she received her first shot of the Pfizer vaccine administered by a Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Family Health nurse. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
North Island to get community wide vaccine clinics

Island Health will take a whole of community approach to immunization.

Port Hardy mayor Dennis Dugas. (Dennis Dugas photo)
Port Hardy mayor advocates for fish farm industry, talks impact on North Island

The Discovery Islands closures will certainly have an effect on Port Hardy, says Dugas.

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Health authority opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

Debra Lynn photo
Mysterious smoke cloud seen in Seavac Centre

Fire crews did a thorough sweep of the centre.

North Island Gazette file photo of Port McNeill council.
Heated conversation occurs at Port McNeill council over policy request

Port McNeill mayor Gaby Wickstrom wants to see a change in the… Continue reading

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Montreal Canadiens right wing Paul Byron (41) fights for control of the puck with Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes (43) during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Captain Clutch: Horvat nets shootout winner as Canucks edge Habs 2-1

Vancouver, Montreal tangle again on Wednesday

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Have thoughts on B.C.’s review of the provincial Police Act?

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

Anyone with information is asked to call Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345 or contact Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-8477 or submitting a tip online at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com.
21-year-old motorbike rider dies after crash with ATV on Nanaimo back road

Incident happened Sunday afternoon near Boomerang Lake

Most Read