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Canadian groundhog dies days before Groundhog Day

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Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Monday, February 1, 2016, 8:04 AM - Forecasters are going to have to do without the help of Manitoba groundhog Winnipeg Willow tomorrow.

The groundhog, who resided at the Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Winnipeg, died Friday night, just days before Groundhog Day.

RELATED: How did the groundhogs do this year? Here's the breakdown - and why Groundhog Day matters

"We are in complete shock and sadness with tears coming down our face to announce the passing of Winnipeg Willow this evening," staff wrote on the centre's Facebook page that evening. "She was acting her normal self this morning and eating a carrot but [we] came in this evening to find her gone."

Willow was born on May 2010, according to the centre, which received the groundhog after her mother was killed by a dog. Although intended to be released, a broken leg extended her stay at the centre, such that she was too accustomed to humans to be returned to the wild.

We are in complete shock and sadness with tears coming down our face to announce the passing of Winnipeg Willow this...

Posted by Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre on Friday, January 29, 2016

WINTER UPDATE: Tune in to The Weather Network on TV for a second look at the season, at :23 past the hour all day beginning at 6:23 a.m. ET on February 2, Groundhog Day

The average life span of a groundhog is 4-6 years, so Willow had a good run. She was often taken on tour to schools as part of an educational program, and turned a paw to weather prognostication. With her death, a nearby Groundhog Day celebration has been cancelled.

"We loved trying to predict the upcoming forecast and I think we only got one season right," the centre's staff says. "From her current behavior this past winter, we were going to predict an early spring as she was eager to head outdoors."

The task of predicting Manitoba's spring this year falls to Manitoba Merv and Brandon Bob as Willow's most high-profile peers. 

Elsewhere, eyes will be on Ontario's Wiarton Willie and Nova Scotia's Shubenacadie Sam, whose home in the Atlantic time zone guarantees a one-hour head start on Feb. 2.

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