Sun. Dec 5th, 2021

Wiarton Willie, the groundhog who fictitiously predicts the weather in the city of Ontario, which relies on him as a major tourist attraction, is dead – and has been for some time.

The most recent repeat of the famous rodent died more than nine months ago, but local officials only acknowledged it publicly this week.

Janice Jackson, the mayor of the small town of South Bruce Peninsula, defended the decision to keep the death of the famous weather forecasting pig a secret for about a year, saying she protected the “Wiarton Willie brand”.

“Wiarton Willie is too much for Wiarton and the South Bruce Peninsula,” Jackson said.

“Wiarton Willie has put us on the international map and we are very, very protective of the Wiarton Willie brand. And we were faced with a riddle, clearly one that surprised us, and we had to plan a path forward the best way we could to protect our city. “

“Timing is everything,” Jackson said.

The city has said Willie died of a dental abscess before the last prediction morning, but has not indicated when, other than it was before its typical hibernation period in 2020.

Rumors of Willie’s death had swirled since Groundhog Day, after a video was released showing the mayor throwing a fur hat and making the annual prediction of how much longer the winter would last without the animal in sight.

News did not surprise Willie’s former caretaker

Willie fictitiously predicts whether spring will come early or not, depending on whether he sees his shadow. The festival takes place in early February as a celebration of Groundhog Day and is a major tourist attraction.

According to folklore, Wiarton Willie predicts whether there will be an early spring or not, depending on whether he sees his shadow. The latest news about Willie did not surprise Sam Brouwer, Willie’s caretaker from 1987 to 2002. After all, it has happened before.

“I had my suspicion that Willie was dead,” he said.

Rumors of Willie’s death had swirled since Groundhog Day, after a video was released showing the mayor throwing a fur hat and making the annual prediction of how much longer the winter would last without the animal in sight. (Kate Bueckert / CBC)

Brouwer owned Wiarton Willie’s Motel, and he kept three white ground hogs in an enclosure outside where the public could visit.

“We had them as pets, you could pick them up,” Brouwer said Wednesday. “We loved them, but I still have marked fingers and cracked fingernails that do not grow straight from pork bites.”

Rodent presented in coffin, stuffed in 1999

In 1999, when he went to check on Willie ahead of Groundhog Day – there have been many Willies over the years – the rodent was frozen, he said.

The city’s second albino groundhog had died the previous September, Brouwer said, so they did not have a backup with only a week to go before Groundhog Day.

The Groundhog Committee then decided to hold a funeral instead of its usual forecasting ceremony, using a white Groundhog that had been stuffed years earlier.

The Willie who was dead was not suitable for the public at the time, Brouwer said.

“The scent was something you would not have wanted to be near,” Brouwer told The Canadian Press in 1999. “It would have been a closed funeral.”

The stuffed rodent was unveiled at Groundhog Day in 1999 in a coffin to the surprise of the audience. Children cried and the news became international.

To this day, it remains with Brouwer in his attic.

“There’s a stuffed boar up there, how is it?” he said. “And a coffin.”

Tunnel to house earthworms became a trap

Brouwer said he sold his motel in 2001, and the three young albino groundhogs went to the new owner, who then handed them over to the city.

The city built a new enclosure for the three ground hogs along with a tunnel structured like a parking trap pipe found under drains that connected the inside to the outside, Brouwer said.

“I should not talk about this … But as much as September is approaching, they saw only one ground hog – no one knew two were dead,” Brouwer said, adding that the dead ground hogs were found in the tunnel, one part of which he said would be filled with water when the snow melted or it rained.

“When they put the tunnel in, they did not vent it, so it became a parking trap, and the ground hogs fell asleep and drowned in there,” Brouwer said.

The city did not answer questions about the deaths of these land pigs.

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