6:00: Morning News

French Creek Freddie says early spring

FRENCH CREEK, W.Va. — Although the nationally noted groundhog Punxsutawney Phil offered a prediction of an early spring when he made his annual appearance in Pennsylvania Thursday morning, West Virginia’s official groundhog offered a competing theory.

“Freddie came out and didn’t see his shadow, so we get an early spring this year,” said Trevor Moore, Manager at the West Virginia Wildlife Center in French Creek.

It was an overcast day for the annual celebration in Upshur County. Moore said while it didn’t make for great shadows, it did make for a good time.

“Very overcast and probably about 30 degrees. There were lots of cold people, but a lot of fun energy too,” he said.

Moore and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources always turn the Groundhog Day celebration into a big event at the facility. Local school children are on hand for the event and use it as an opportunity to learn some groundhog biology as well as the origins of the holiday.

Groundhog Day was an event originally celebrated in Germany and in Europe a hedgehog is used as the predictor for the rest of the winter. When German immigrants came to the United States they brought the tradition with them, but couldn’t find a hedgehog, so they adapted the tradition to the abundant groundhog.

Groundhogs are considered rodents and spend the winter in hibernation. They actually emerge around this time off the winter in search of a mate. The critters will breed, then return to the burrow for the rest of winter and emerge a second time when the temperatures have warmed.

As for the groundhog’s accuracy, Moore said flipping a coin is about as reliable.

“Last year he was wrong. He predicted six more weeks of winter and in February and March we had 31 of the 59 days over 50 degrees. So, we might need to send him away for some training, but usually he’s about 50/50,” he said.

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