FRENCH CREEK – Last year French Creek Freddie had more than 400 fans cheering him on as he emerged to predict an early spring.
This year, West Virginia’s cutest prognosticator will be making his weather prediction without an audience and will not have his yearly 15 minutes of fame.
On Monday, representatives from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources announced that the Groundhog Day activities usually scheduled at the West Virginia State Wildlife Center, located in French Creek, have been canceled to prevent community spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Kim Linger, temporary office assistant for the West Virginia State Wildlife Center, said although the event is canceled, folks may still go to the WVDNR social media pages – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, 2021 around noon to find out just what Freddie predicted. Linger said the social media posts will include a recorded session from earlier that day.
Residents and potential visitors are reminded that they will not be able to view French Creek Freddie’s predictions in person.
French Creek 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.
The West Virginia State Wildlife Center is located at 163 Wildlife Road in French Creek. Additional information about the center is available on Facebook or by calling 304-924-6211.
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.