FRENCH CREEK, W.Va. — There’s some disagreement between the groundhogs when it comes to the weather in the coming weeks.

On Sunday morning, French Creek Freddie emerged from his burrow at the West Virginia Wildlife Center in Upshur County and, in front of an estimated crowd of 400, did not see his shadow.  According to Groundhog Day tradition, that means an early spring.

Sunday was a cloudy, rainy day in much of West Virginia.

Earlier in the day, roughly 200 miles away in Punxsutawny, Pa., the internationally famous Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and, in doing so, predicted six more weeks of winter.

Freddie has been predicting weather at the West Virginia Wildlife Center since the 1970s when Bill Vanscoy, a former manager, was asked by a reporter what they called the groundhog.  It’s not known if Vanscoy intentionally blurted out “Freddie” or if it was a snap decision in search of an answer.

“The true name is woodchuck,” said Rob Sylvester, current manager of the West Virginia Wildlife Center, of Freddie’s species.  “The common name people use is groundhogs.  Some call them whistle pigs, but the actual name of the species is woodchuck.”

Sylvester said the tradition of looking to the groundhog for a prediction of early spring dates back to the Roman Empire when they would celebrate Candlemas Day.  The Roman legions crossed into Europe and introduced the tradition there.

“If the sun shines on Candlemas Day, the snow will swirl until May,” Sylvester explained. “The Germans used a hedgehog, but when it came to America, we didn’t have hedgehogs, but what we did have was woodchucks.”

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  • jm

    Go with Freddie......... In PA, poor Phil is subjected to spotlights, a bunch of drunk guys wearing tophats, and he is not even the one that determines (for himself) if he saw a shodow. A team of tophatters decide for him prior to his arrival. Poor guy gets pulled out and his mind has already been made for him. One of the guys in the tophat must be his wife. LOL

  • Truth

    All I know is that they are calling for 6-12 inches tomorrow where I live and that seems like winter to me.

  • BigMo

    Freddie is smarter than that goofball in Pa.

    • BigMo

      You need to embrace the truth that is Freddie.

  • Randy Turner

    I LIKE WV Freddie's prediction better than that down in ahole Punxsutawny PA Phil!!!Bring on Spring Freddie.

  • Harley DeLeurere

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    It goes without saying that French Creek Freddie is one brainy groundhog. In fact, I have more faith in him than I do in the government. Yes, of course, we're going to have an early spring. Please thank you, and God bless you.

  • Doctor Who

    Who cares?

  • WVcoal

    I'll go with French Creek Freddie. :o)

  • Ole Sasquatch

    What if he sees his shadow but he don't make any mental note of it at all. Does that mean he really saw his shadow? Or vice versa?
    Something deep to ponder.

  • polarbear

    Greg. Its on a Sunday this year. The day of the week for Feb 2nd changes each year. At least learn how a calender works before you start giving advise on logistics.

  • greg phillips

    good article but cant figure out why they would not market this better. Great opportunity to promote the game farm and wildlife. What do they do? plan the event "around" 10 am. Would be nice to know exactly when. Also why 10 am on a Sunday? many folks in church. Would it not be better to promote an event at 1:30? What about working better with WV Dep of Tourism and use some lottery money to promote an event like in PA. Its a shame.

    • Casey

      The event has always been around 10 am because that is the traditional time for the groundhog to come out. There is no set time because it is hard to say how long it will actually take to get the groundhog to come out. I do, however, there would be more promotion of the event. As a WV teacher and being raised in French Creek, I would love to be able to get more resources for this day from our state and not PA.

  • DWM

    Phil and Freddie need to be a little more cautious this year than in the past. With the winter we've had, I'd suggest a kevlar vest if they come out of their hole and see their shadows!

  • BigMo

    I think Freddie's the deal. Looking for a early spring!

  • Pocahontas Man

    was he named for past manager of French Creek.Fred Tranner

  • Pocahontas Man

    was he named for the past manager of French Creek.

  • Jephre

    If he calls for six more weeks of winter I think there should be groundhog stew for supper.

    • BeckyB

      Don't shoot (or stew) the messenger.