Canadian groundhog Fred la marmotte found dead before Groundhog Day
OTTAWA, Feb 2 (Reuters) - A beloved Canadian groundhog, Fred la marmotte, was found dead before he could complete a North American tradition of predicting the onset of spring on Groundhog Day on Thursday.
Kids and adults cheerfully waited for Fred to appear at an annual event in Val-d'Espoir, Quebec, on Thursday, before event organizer Roberto Blondin announced the stubby burrower's demise.
Fred, 9, was found dead overnight and Blondin said he might have passed away late last year during hibernation.
"In life, the only thing that's certain is that nothing is certain," Blondin said at la Jour de Fred, or Fred's day, event. "Well, this year it's true. It's sadly true. I announce to you that Fred is dead."
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.
La Jour de Fred event continued without him though, as Blondin handed a stuffed toy version of the rodent to a child standing in sunlight to complete the annual tradition.
A shadow was cast, and the forecast was announced : "spring is delayed."
Groundhog Day, which falls on Feb. 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.
Designated groundhogs in other Canadian provinces were luckier in fulfilling their duty. Manitoba Merv and Nova Scotia's Shubenacadie Sam saw their shadows, but Ontario's Wiarton Willie did not and predicted an early spring.
Canada, known for its bitter, icy winters, has so far had one its mildest winters on record.
South of the border, the celebrated 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.
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