Surprise death of Fred la marmotte brings an unwelcome twist to Groundhog Day
In what Canadians are taking as an extremely bad omen, one of the country’s most famous groundhogs was found dead just hours before he was set to make his prediction for the year.
Fred la marmotte, the beloved Québécois furry oracle, was discovered dead before he could complete a North American tradition of predicting the onset of spring on Groundhog Day on Thursday.
A crowd of children and parents had formed, waiting excitedly for nine-year-old Fred to appear at an annual event in Val-d'Espoir, Quebec, before event organiser Roberto Blondin announced the stubby burrower's demise.
“When I went to wake him last night he had no vital signs,” Mr Blondin said. “He most likely died during hibernation.”
In North American folklore, if the solitary rodent sees his shadow on Groundhog Day, then frigid, winter weather will persist for six weeks. If it is cloudy and no shadow appears, the onset of spring is near.
Canada, known for its bitter, icy winters, has so far had one its mildest winters on record.
“Not sure what this predicts but Quebec’s groundhog Fred la marmotte has died,” Sarah Leavitt, a reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Company, tweeted. “It was somewhat of a surprise - they had a whole event leading up to his prediction only for his death to be announced.”
Not sure what this predicts but Quebec’s groundhog Fred la Marmotte has died.
It was somewhat of a surprise - they had a whole event leading up to his prediction only for his death to be announced. pic.twitter.com/u9XSNgse3Z
— Sarah Leavitt (@sarahleavittcbc) February 2, 2023
La Jour de Fred event continued without him though, as Mr Blondin handed a stuffed toy version of the rodent to a child standing in sunlight to complete the annual tradition.
“It will be a long winter indeed for the friends and family of Fred la marmotte,” the Montreal Gazette wrote in an obituary. “What we will always remember is how he lifted his paw to salute the sun at every prediction.”
Groundhog Day, which falls on February 2, evolved from an ancient ritual brought to the United States by German immigrants who settled in what is now the state of Pennsylvania.
The first official celebration of Groundhog Day was in 1886, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.
South of the border, the celebrated US groundhog known as Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his Pennsylvania burrow on Thursday and saw his shadow, a sign of six more weeks of frosty weather.