Beyond Phil: Other rodents that purport to ‘predict’ weather
Groundhog Club handler A.J. Dereume holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 137th celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa., Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. Phil’s handlers said that the groundhog has forecast six more weeks of winter.
(AP Photo/Barry Reeger)
Rodents predicting weather trends. Why?
Just as fair a Groundhog Day question, though, is this: Why not? And more importantly, why should Punxsutawney Phil always get to, well, hog the press?
The spring-heralding (or spring- delaying) small animal has
taken firm root in some swaths of American culture. And while
Phil and his Pennsylvania ilk are the most celebrated, there is an astonishingly broad selection of other critters who have felt the need (or, at least, their handlers have) to put reputations on the line to “predict” meteorology in the dead of winter. Here we offer just a few.
Before we take a look, pause for a moment to remember one particular groundhog of yore — Charlotte, a stand-in for Staten Island Chuck in 2014. She predicted six more weeks before being famously dropped by then-New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio and dying a week later. Do take aboard a disclaimer, though. This is merely a smattering of groundhoggery, offered up in no particular order. Please don’t be offended if your animal isn’t included. Maybe next year.
JIMMY THE GROUNDHOG, Wisconsin: Caused controversy in 2015 after biting the mayor of Sun Prairie on the ear.
MILLTOWN MEL, New Jersey: Event got caught up in problems with state law this year after the previous prognosticator expired.
WOODY THE WOODCHUCK, Michigan: Emerged from a tiny green door in a small, human- made tree stump on Thursday.
WOODSTOCK WILLIE, Illinois. Saw his shadow Thursday. Site of where the best-ever PR around the day — the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day” — was filmed.
OCTORARO ORPHIE, Pennsylvania: Predicts from a home base in Quarryville in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Because of Pennsylvania Dutch folklore, which helped give birth to the Groundhog Day tradition, that region has several on the job, including Mount Joy Minnie and Dover Doug.
STATEN ISLAND CHUCK, New York: Longtime predictor in the New York City borough. This year, the current mayor didn’t attend.
BUCKEYE CHUCK, Ohio: Another Chuck, this one further inland. This year, according to reports, the Chuck used publicly was a stuffed one after an animal- rights group objected to how a live one had been treated.
GEN. BEAUREGARD LEE, Georgia: Chipmunk who claims high accuracy rate. Contradicted Phil this year.