Alternative ‘groundhogs’ predict the weather every Groundhog Day along with Phil
It’s cold. The trees are bare. Snow and ice are an ever-present threat. If the midst of summer is known as the “dog days,” maybe we can call this time of year the Groundhog Days.
We have Punxsutawney Phil, possibly the world’s most famous groundhog, to thank for marking winter’s turning point. Since 1886, the Pennsylvanian oracle has emerged each year on Feb. 2 to foretell the future: Will we have an early spring thaw? Or will Phil get spooked by his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter worries?
Either way, Phil’s record is a little spotty. Last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration put Phil’s predictions at 40% accuracy for the previous 10-year period.
Could any other creatures do it better? A number of cities across the U.S. celebrate by turning to their own weather-predicting wildlife. No offense to Phil — some places don’t have groundhogs, and others would like to spotlight other animals that live in their region and are important to local economies.
Here are five alternatives if you’re looking for some different viewpoints in the weeks ahead:
1. Flatiron Freddy
As a Coloradan, this taxidermied, yellow-bellied marmot is close to my heart. Just look at him in this 2023 tweet from Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks department!
Flatiron Freddy came into the Chautauqua Meadow with the help of a golden eagle this morning! Boulder's "seer of seers" and forecaster of the Flatirons saw his shadow, so six more weeks of winter it is! #boulder pic.twitter.com/tcvCOC0mYv
— Boulder OSMP (@boulderosmp) February 2, 2023
For the last decade-plus, Boulder’s park rangers have suited Freddy up on Feb. 2 to tell us what weather to expect. He dons a Phil-inspired top hat and tailcoat, then zooms into the assembly at Chautauqua Ranger Cottage to make his prediction. (Last year he flew in on a zip line, carried in the talons of a faux eagle.)
The park rangers are the ones who interpret Freddy’s springtime vision, determining whether or not he sees his shadow. Unlike Phil, Freddy is dead, perhaps offering a deeper connection to the unknown.
2. Leia the Aardvark
Leia’s a relative newcomer on the furry forecaster scene — 2024 will be her second year sharing her wisdom at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. Here’s the TikTok showing her prediction:
@audubonnature Leia the aardvark has made her prediction 🌷🌤️ #audubonzoo #groundhogday #aardvark #earthpig ♬ original sound – Audubon Nature Institute
An aardvark “ambassador” for the zoo, Leia uses a custom-tailored technique to make her predictions for spring: She wanders over to a termite mound with an “early spring” sign if that season is coming early, or goes to the “long winter”-labeled mound if cold weather is sticking around.
One of Leia’s handlers told WDSU that they chose her to replace their previous prognosticator, T-Boy the nutria, because aardvarks are known for digging, like groundhogs. Good luck to Leia in 2024!
3. Stumptown Fil the Beaver
Filbert the Beaver, or Fil for short, also uses a species-specific way to announce his weather insights.
“Groundhogs are great if you live in the northeast,” Christina Parr, an Oregon Zoo keeper, told The Oregonian. “But here in the Pacific Northwest, we’re beaver believers.”
His team at the Oregon Zoo, in Portland, set up a couple of branches for him to choose from, one with each possible outcome. As you can see in this video shared by the zoo in 2023, Fil moves decisively, plucking the “six more weeks of winter” branch out of the ground and summarily dragging it back into his shelter:
Stumptown Fil has made his weather furcast pic.twitter.com/PyCW0NyRlK
— Oregon Zoo (@OregonZoo) February 2, 2023
Gotta love the confidence!
4. Potomac Phil
Another taxidermied seer of the seasons, Potomac Phil makes his prediction on the same day as his “brother,” the legendary Punxsutawney Phil. While the Pennsylvania “Phils” come and go, Potomac Phil is the original article. He just happens to be dead.
He also has an X account, from which he tweets about his all-time favorite thing: The corn cob forever clutched between his front paws.
corn cob corn cob corn cob corn cob corn cob corn cob corn cob corn cob corn cob corn cob corn cob corn cob corn cob corn cob corn cob corn cob pic.twitter.com/9Ax9TSbwD0
— Potomac Phil (@PotomacPhil) February 2, 2023
Folks gather each year at Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle to learn what he (and perhaps his corn cob) thinks, based on whether or not he sees his shadow. Last year, he predicted an early spring because he didn’t see one. Or his human handlers didn’t, anyway.
Being a Beltway pundit of sorts, Potomac Phil also shares a prediction for the near future of politics. “Six more months of political gridlock,” is what he usually says. Hard to go wrong there.
5. Lucy the Lobster
Why should mammals have all the fun? Lucy the Lobster, of Barrington, Nova Scotia, has been making predictions since 2019 and she always makes a splash.
At approximately 50 years old, Lucy is a grande dame of the lobster community. She gives her prediction at Nova Scotia’s South Shore Lobster Crawl, a lobster-themed festival.
I’m prepping for my big day! Are you getting excited @ShubenacadieSam ?? I can’t wait to SHELLebrate with everyone and take a SHELLfie or two!! 🦞🥰@weathernetwork @globalhalifax @Brett_CBC @cbccolleenjones @LobsterCrawl @GroundhogTime @CTVMorningAtl @Mainstreethfx @jimmyfallon pic.twitter.com/vjqGCX0j0Q
— LucyLobster (@LucyLobsterNS) January 26, 2024
There was some worry that she’d compete with her fellow Nova Scotian weather whiz Shubenacadie Sam the groundhog, but a CBC report put rumors of a feud to rest, noting that the two non-human prognosticators are “friends.”
Like her other colleagues whose predictions are based on the presence of shadows, Lucy’s Feb. 2 appearance includes human handlers who can determine if she’s seen it. She tends to agree with Sam, though!