Long Winter Ahead Says Prognosticators

·2 min read

Alberta’s Balzac Billy made his annual Groundhog Day appearance this year from the Bluegrass Garden Centre, just outside of Calgary, in a live-streamed Facebook event. The Groundhog Day tradition says that if a groundhog sees its shadow when it comes out of its burrow on Feb. 2, it will get scared and run back in, predicting another six weeks of winter. If it doesn’t see its shadow, it predicts an early spring. While Balzac Billy isn’t an actual groundhog (the role of Billy is played by a person in a gopher mascot suit), the staff at the Bluegrass Garden Center maintain that his predictions have been 86% accurate.

This year Billy came out of his burrow wearing a non-medical face mask for the socially distanced Groundhog Day event. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your preferences), Billy saw his shadow, forecasting six more weeks of winter.

We don’t have a readily available groundhog in Swan Hills, but my dog Honey agreed to stand in as a replacement this year. Honey’s findings backed up Balzac Billy’s predictions.

Other prognosticators predictions:

Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam, hesitantly emerginged from his pint-sized barn and apparently failed to see his shadow.

Wiarton Willie, in Wiarton, Ont. was nowhere to be seen as officials called an early spring after throwing a fur hat into the air.

Punxsutawney Phil from Pennsylvania predicted: 6 more weeks of winter there will be!

According to The Farmers’ Almanac winter is not going anywhere soon, with long-range prediction “winter is here for the long haul.”

Also known as the “whistle pig” due to its high-pitched alarm whistle when alerting family members of impending danger; Groundhogs typically live two to three years in the wild. In captivity, their lifespan is much longer with the original Wiarton Willie living 22 years. The average groundhog, weighing in at 4 to 9 pounds, can move approximately 700 pounds of dirt when digging a burrow, which can be up to 46 feet long and up to 5 feet underground.

With a large habitat, wild groundhogs can be seen from Alaska to as far south as Alabama.

Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette