groundhog wiarton willie

People are furious mayor hid the death of famous Ontario groundhog Wiarton Willie

The famous albino Wiarton Willie is gone, but questions remain about the secrecy surrounding his death.

Suspicions were raised on Groundhog Day this year when a pre-recorded video was released instead of a live prediction with the famed Willie.

The video recaps the history of Wiarton Willie, a tradition dating back 60 years. Then South Bruce Peninsula Mayor Janice Jackson acts as Willie's interpreter, throwing off her hat and announcing: "It's an early spring."

But famous albino groundhog, Wiarton Willie, did not make an appearance in the video.

Then the Town of South Bruce Peninsula announced on Nov. 24 that the latest Willie had died well before the most recent Groundhog Day due to a tooth abscess.

The news left some people wondering what took so long to make the announcement.

"I have SO many questions about this. I will uncover the Willie Conspiracy," one person wrote on Twitter.

"So Wiarton Willie is dead. He died, um, more than 9 months ago, but we're just finding out now," another person wrote. "There's a dark history with dead Willies over the years and alleged coverups."

The original Wiarton Willie passed away at 22 back in 1999, his replacement following with a much shorter tenure before dying in 2006. Wiarton Willie III died at 13 in 2017, replaced by the two-year-old Wee Willie that same year, becoming Wiarton Willie IV.

One person went so far as to suspect Premier Doug Ford in the latest rodent's demise.

In a Canadian Press story, Mayor Janice Jackson defended the town's decision not to let the public know sooner.  Jackson said they decided to not tell the public about the death because they wanted a smooth transition if they found a new albino groundhog.

"Wiarton Willie has put us on the international map and we're very, very protective of the Wiarton Willie brand. And we were faced with a conundrum, clearly one that took us by surprise, and we had to plot a path forward the best way that we could to protect our town," Jackson said. 

When asked if she could have told the public earlier, Jackson simply said "no."

They never found an albino replacement and a brown "understudy" groundhog will be at the live 2022 Groundhog Day festival, which will be on Feb. 5 not Feb. 2, 2022.

The death has some wondering if it is time to put the tradition to rest.

"I would be perfectly fine giving up this bizarre and clearly inhumane practice," one person wrote.

A brown Wiarton Willie isn't sitting well with people either and one person had another suggestion.

"I think we can substitute Doug Ford for Willie. If Doug wakes up & sees his shadow, we’ll have 6 more major highways by spring. (After all, if Bruce County had a 6-lane freeway there’s a good chance Willie would still be with us!)," they wrote.

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