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Nova Scotia

Sudden death of Quebec’s Fred la marmotte casts a shadow on Groundhog Day

Fred la marmotte, the province’s famed furry oracle in Val-d’Espoir, Que., was found dead overnight Thursday, hours before he was expected to predict whether it would be an early or late spring.

The organizer of Thursday’s Groundhog Day event in Val-d’Espoir announced the grim news after around 40 minutes of celebrations with music and dancing.

“The only thing in life that is certain is that nothing is certain,” said a serious Roberto Blondin to a crowd of waiting onlookers.

“Well, this year it’s true. It’s true and it’s unfortunate. I announce the death of Fred.”

Blondin said he found the lifeless animal overnight while trying to wake him. He said he had “no signs of life” and believed Fred died during hibernation in late autumn or early December at the age of nine.

Blondin changed the tone and said Fred loved children and would have wanted a child to fill in for him on Thursday.

A man pulling up a child wearing a marmot hat.
In light of the sudden death of Quebec’s furry forecaster, a child was brought in to make the prediction this Groundhog Day. The judgment? A late spring. (Radio Canada)

With this, a child attending the event and wearing a marmot hat was called onto the stage and presented with a plush marmot. He predicted six more weeks of winter.

Renée Laurendeau, a spokeswoman for the annual Groundhog Day event, who describes herself as Fred’s publicist, said everyone in the crowd was shocked to learn of the rodent’s death.

But for a groundhog, he’d had a long, prosperous life. According to Laurendeau, he replaced his father Gros Fred and predicted spring with greater accuracy than some weather forecasters.

“He was great,” Laurendeau said. “He did great service, made great predictions – 80 percent success rate, but I think it had to come to an end.”

Next year there will be a new marmot – Fred Junior, one of Fred la marmotte’s sons – who will be ready to make his prediction to continue the tradition, Blondin assured.

No funeral arrangements were announced for Fred.

Meanwhile, two of Canada’s most famous groundhog forecasters have made conflicting statements about the arrival of spring.

Ontario’s Wiarton Willie has called for an early spring, while Shubenacadie Sam, Nova Scotia’s most famous groundhog, appeared to catch her shadow this morning as she emerged from a snow-covered enclosure at a wildlife park north of Halifax.

According to folklore, when a marmot sees its shadow on Groundhog Day, winter drags on. However, if he does not discover his shadow, spring-like weather will soon set in.

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