(02/01/2010)

Photo courtesy of West Virginia Division of Natural Resources

West Virginia State Wildlife Center's official weather prognosticator French Creek Freddie is poised to forecast the onset of spring on Tuesday, February 2 at 10 a.m.

French Creek Freddie has undertaken his annual ritual at the West Virginia State Wildlife Center since 1978.

"Celebrating Groundhog Day at the Wildlife Center has become a very popular event," noted Wildlife Center Biologist Rob Silvester.

"Each year many visitors gather with anticipation to witness Freddie's first glimpse of the New Year and his annual prediction of the start of spring."

The tradition of Groundhog Day is rooted in early European legend. According to tradition, Groundhog Day stems from similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day.

For centuries, early Christian clergy would bless candles and distribute them to the people. During the conquest of the northern country, Roman legions supposedly brought this tradition to the Teutons, or Germans, who concluded that if the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day, the hedgehog would cast a shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of bad weather.

Early German settlers in the New World encountered another burrowing animal, the woodchuck or groundhog, which served to replace the hedgehog as the traditional "wise animal" in North America.

Woodchucks are true hibernators and spend all winter in burrowed out dens. They usually go in their den about mid-November and stay until early to mid-February, when they awaken and begin searching for a mate.

For more information about the annual Groundhog Day Celebration at the Wildlife Center, contact the West Virginia State Wildlife Center at P.O. Box 38, French Creek, WV 26218, phone: 304-924-6211.


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