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French Creek Freddie emerges from his den Tuesday.
French Creek Freddie emerges from his den Tuesday.

French Creek Freddie predicts an early spring for West Virginia

French Creek Freddie has made his famous prognostication: West Virginia is due for an early spring.

Freddie emerged from his den to cloudy skies Tuesday morning. Legend says if the groundhog does not see his shadow, an early spring is coming.

However, things did look a bit different for Freddie this year. Instead of the large crowds that usually greet the groundhog on February 2, the woods at the West Virginia Wildlife Center were quiet after the DNR canceled this year’s event due to COVID-19.

Freddie has drawn crowds each Groundhog Day since 1978 to see if the groundhog sees his shadow to learn if he predicted six more weeks of bad weather or an early spring. Officials at the West Virginia State Wildlife Center said that Freddie does a great job and is usually spot on, averaging about a 60 percent correct prediction rate.

If Freddie sees his shadow when he emerges from his warm burrow, winter is predicted to last another six weeks and if there is no shadow, spring is just around the corner. The event began in 1978 when Superintendent Bill Vanscoy received a phone call from someone at the Associated Press wanting to know if the center had a groundhog. The event took off and has been growing each year.

In 2020, the 400 watching French Creek Freddie make his prediction included folks who had traveled from as far away as California and ages ranged from four months old to 82 years old.

Groundhogs are also known as woodchucks or whistle pigs, and they belong to a group of large ground squirrels called marmots.

While the Groundhog Day celebration is canceled this year, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources wants to remind patrons that the West Virginia Wildlife Center remains open to visitors seven days a week. From Nov. 1 to March 31, hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free during this period. The state Wildlife Center is home to French Creek Freddie and nearly 30 different native and introduced animal species. For more information, visit wvdnr.gov/wildlife/wildlifecenter.shtm.

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