This Famous Groundhog Sadly Died Only a Few Days Before Groundhog Day

Are the rumors that Punxsutawney Phil died true? The creature is synonymous with Groundhog Day in the minds of millions of people across the U.S.

Chris Barilla - Author

Feb. 2 2022, Published 11:48 a.m. ET

Punxsutawney Phil
Source: Getty Images

Have you ever just stopped and wondered why we in the U.S. and Canada make a tradition of basing our weather predictions on if a groundhog sees its shadow or not? It's fair to say that many have had that thought cross their mind at one point or another. Nonetheless, the storied celebration surrounding Groundhog Day continues every year, and its undisputed biggest star is Punxsutawney Phil.

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As of late, some rumors have surfaced suggesting that something bad might've happened to the beloved holiday marmot. So, did Punxsutawney Phil die? Keep reading for what we know of the situation currently.

Punxsutawney Phil
Source: Getty Images
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Did Punxsutawney Phil die? No, but his New Jersey counterpart did.

Fans of Groundhog Day will be happy to know that its shining star, Punxsutawney Phil, has not died in 2022. Indeed, the famous animal emerged from his burrow on Feb. 2, 2022, and saw his shadow, predicting another extra six weeks of winter.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Punxsutawney Phil's groundhog counterpart, Milltown Mel. The other groundhog used to make a weather prediction in the Garden State sadly passed away on Jan. 30, right before the holiday, and due to groundhogs' hibernation schedules they were unable to find a ready replacement in time for Feb. 2.

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Mel's handlers wrote in a Facebook post: "Considering the average lifespan of a groundhog is about three years, that is not such a shock, but Mel left us at a tough time of year, when most of his fellow groundhogs are hibernating."

Given those circumstances, no replacement groundhogs would be ready until spring. Nonetheless, they added: "We will work hard on getting us a new weather prognosticator for next year."

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How did Groundhog Day get its start?

Groundhog day may be unique to the U.S. and Canada, but it actually stems from a long and storied heritage of Europeans using animals to predict the weather in a variety of ways. For example, in Serbia, bears predict the end of winter on a Feb. 15 holiday called Sretenje.

Groundhogs are native to North America and quickly became the animal of choice for German settlers in Pennsylvania who sought to establish their own weather prediction tradition in their new home. According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, the first time that Groundhog Day appeared in the local newspaper was in 1886. The following year brought the first official trek to Gobbler's Knob, and the tradition has continued in the same fashion every year ever since.

Happy Groundhog Day!

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