Ontario’s albino forecaster has died, according to South Bruce Peninsula Mayor Janice Jackson. But it was not a recent death.
Willie actually died before the last Groundhog Day ceremony, a city spokesperson confirmed. The groundhog did not show up at a virtual ceremony held last year. The event organizers prerecorded Willie’s prediction.
Many assumed that the virtual Groundhog Day predictions of Ontario’s Wiarton Willie and Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam were the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also sparked rumors about Willie’s health.
Major Jackson made the announcement On Tuesday high-profile Canadian groundhog Wiarton Willie had died of a dental abscess.
“Our albino forecaster sadly passed away leaving his great brown understudy in charge of making the prediction for 2022,” Jackson said in the statement.
TO cheep from Wiarton Willie’s official account Tuesday afternoon indicated that his understudy would take over Willie’s forecasting duties.
“Life as we know it has changed, and Willie is no exception,” the mayor of Wiarton told the Star in January. “We took a turn like any other business and event, so we are making a virtual prediction this year.”
A city release says the video posted on the previous Groundhog Day was intended as a tribute to Wiarton Willie.
“Albino marmots are rare and between not having a replacement, the COVID restrictions prohibiting gatherings at the time, and Willie’s 65th anniversary, we felt it was a great opportunity to pay tribute to Wiarton Willie’s history, so the last year I record a nice video”Said Danielle Edwards, spokesperson for the city of South Bruce Peninsula.
“We’ve been looking for an albino ever since, but as the end of summer approached and the marmots were hibernating, our window of opportunity would quickly close, so we adopted a brown marmot,” Edwards said.
A funeral was held in September 2017 when Willie died. Wiarton doesn’t know how many Willies there have been since the tradition began.
Many on social media have been sharing their thoughts on the loss of Willie.
Every year on February 2, people gather in Wiarton to find out if Willie will see his shadow and predict six more weeks of winter or early spring. The city in the south of the Bruce Peninsula has been celebrating the Wiarton Willie Festival for more than 64 years.
“We look forward to meeting for a ‘live’ event in 2022. It will be great to be able to celebrate Willie’s prediction together, as a community,” says Mayor Jackson.
The city says next year’s 2022 festival will take place on February 5.
The new Willie is currently in the backup house attached to the Ross Whicher Center in Wiarton, Edwards told the Star.
New Willie is reportedly 4 years old, highly inquisitive, and an insatiable eater.