New Jersey’s weather-predicting groundhog, Milltown Mel, has died just days before his scheduled appears for the official ‘Groundhog’s Day.’
The tragic news was shared on the animal’s Facebook page, claiming the beloved prognosticator passed away on Sunday. Unfortunately, the big guy was supposed to appear at this year’s Groundhog’s Day festival on February 2.
“We Wranglers are sad to report that Milltown Mel recently crossed over the rainbow bridge. Considering the average lifespan of a Groundhog is about 3 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,” a statement on the death begins.
Unfortunately, handlers of the animals claim there is no one to take his place on such short notice, so the entire event is being canceled.
“No babies will be available to replace him until this Spring. We tried everywhere to get a stand-in but to no avail! On top of that, the county is not currently renting out the big Showmobile stage due to the pandemic, so we would have had that issue as well.”
According to the organization, they are already on the hunt for someone to be ready to make the prediction for next year.
“We will work hard on getting us a new weather prognosticator for next year, till then please check out what all of Mel’s cousins have to say on Feb 2nd.”
This is the second year in a row that Mel isn’t able to do his duties for the holiday after he spent last year in quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you have been living under a rock, the tradition of ‘Groundhog Day’ includes a prognosticating animal that sees its shadow on the morning of the holiday meaning there are six more weeks of winter. Or, if he doesn’t then spring will arrive early!
As you know, the holiday and animals exploded into the height of fame after the Bill Murray movie was made after the same holiday was a success at the box office. It should be noted, Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil, perhaps the most famous weather-predicting groundhog, is still scheduled to make an appearance at Gobblers Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for the city’s 136th Groundhog Day celebration.
Fans flooded the Facebook page to pay their respects to Mel, with one saying, “My condolences, Wranglers Thank you Mel for your years of service, helping us through the remaining Winter weeks.” Another added, “Dear Wranglers: so sorry to learn of your loss. May the angels fly Mel to his rest.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time this has happened in the great state of New Jersey. In 2016, Sussex County’s groundhog Stonewall Jackson died on Groundhog Eve.
Fun Fact: The tradition of consulting a rodent as a sign of early spring comes from Christian traditions of Candlemas. “Candlemas was originally a Celtic festival marking the ‘cross-quarter day,’ or midpoint of the season. The Sun is halfway on its advance from the winter solstice to the spring equinox,” the Almanac website states.