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Forecasting groundhog Wiarton Willie dies at 13

Last Updated Sep 20, 2017 at 10:22 am PST

South Bruce Peninsula Mayor Janice Jackson looks at Wiarton Willie as the the albino groundhog makes his annual midwinter weather prediction in Wiarton, Ontario, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2017. The albino groundhog at the centre of Canada's most high-profile weather forecasting tradition has died. Wiarton Willie, who drew crowds to Wiarton, Ont., each February for Groundhog Day festivities, died on Friday according to a news release from the Town of South Bruce Peninsula. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Willy Waterton

WIARTON, Ont. – The albino groundhog at the centre of Canada’s most high-profile weather forecasting tradition has died.

Wiarton Willie, who drew crowds to Wiarton, Ont., each February for Groundhog Day festivities, died on Friday according to a news release from the Town of South Bruce Peninsula.

If Willie saw his shadow, legend held that winter conditions would prevail for another six weeks, whereas failure to do so would mean a quick end to the cold season.

The town says Willie was 13, about three times the age of a standard groundhog living in the wild.

The town attributed his long life to his thorough care regimen and protected living environment.

It says a memorial service and procession will be held for the meteorological marmot on Sept. 30.

“Willie was 13 years young and served our town, province and country with immense pride each and every Groundhog Day,” said the release announcing his death. “Willie also enjoyed meeting the thousands of guests that would visit him at his home in Bluewater Park during the summer months.”

The town says a two-year-old groundhog “understudy” will assume Willie’s role in the near future.