For centuries, February 2nd has held a special place in the hearts of North Americans who anxiously await the prediction of their local groundhog, the ultimate authority on meteorological matters. Descended from pagan rituals, Groundhog Day lore states that should a groundhog emerge from its burrow and see its shadow, winter will last another six weeks. By contrast, if it doesn’t see its shadow, spring will arrive early.

Though the accuracy of such predictions varies, the popularity of the annual tradition carries on, and many towns in Canada and the United States take great pride in their local prognosticating groundhog. Such famous groundhogs include Punxsutawney Phil, who was immortalized in the 1993 Bill Murray comedy Groundhog Day.

However, there are also a number of famous Canadian groundhogs whose annual predictions are publicized far and wide. From Alberta’s Balzac Billy to Ontario’s Wiarton Willy, here are just some of the most famous Canadian groundhogs.

Wiarton Willie – Ontario

Quite possibly the most famous Canadian Groundhog around, Wiarton Willie has been providing predictions (in one form or another) since 1957. Hailing from Ontario’s South Bruce Peninsula, the tradition of the Wiarton Willie Festival began when a hapless Toronto Star reporter by the name of Frank Teskey arrived in town to cover the local Ground Hog day festival” only to discover it amounted to a drinking party in the local watering hole.

Not wanting their out-of-town visitor to return home empty handed, local prankster and event organizer Mac Mackenzie took a white fur hat, placed it in a hole in the snow and invited Teskey to snap a pic of the groundhog.”

It soon became an annual event, but Wiarton Willie” himself was only added to the festivities in the 80s and soon the albino groundhog became a local star. Not only is the Wiarton Willie Festival an annual tradition, but the town erected a statue of their most famous resident as a constant reminder of their watchful guardian.

Balzac Billy – Alberta

The bad boy of Western Canadian groundhog prognosticators, Balzac Billy has the distinction of being a human-sized, windbreaker-toting, sunglass-wearing marmot who can see the future. The tradition of Balzac Billy began in the 70’s when Balzac’s Merle Osborne started delivering his predictions to the local radio station with her characteristic wit.

Later, Balzac Billy came out of his hole and started strutting around town in his trademark windbreaker-and-aviators look for events like store openings, parades, and other special events.

However, Balzac Billy possesses an awful secret: he’s not a groundhog at all! (he’s actually a Richardson Ground Squirrel.)

Shubenacadie Sam – Nova Scotia

Hailing from Shubenacadie Wildlife Park in Nova Scotia, Shubenacadie Sam has the distinction of providing the first Groundhog Day prediction in North America each year thanks to the Atlantic Time Zone. 

Shubenacadie Sam celebrations have taken place in Nova Scotia since 1987, and they’ve only grown in mirth and prestige since. Not only do news crews descend on Sam’s burrow every year to record the events, but the annual procession also includes bagpipers, criers, dignitaries, as well as his loving fans.

Shubenacadie Sam is so popular, he even maintains his own social media presence, interacting with fans often on Twitter.

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