WV Wildlife: West Virginia's Groundhog--French Creek Freddie

“Are you ready for French Creek Freddie!?”

That’s what they were singing at the West Virginia State Wildlife Center last Thursday in Upshur County.

Freddie is more than just a Groundhog there--he's a tradition.

Our beloved state Groundhog, French Creek Freddie, has been a forecasting colleague to meteorologists here in the Mountain State since 1978.

Tyler Evans, a wildlife biologist at the Wildlife Center, says the Groundhog Day event there has only grown over the years.

"It's certainly turned into a following. Each year, we get about 300 people out here celebrating with us--a lot of fresh faces, a lot of people that we're used to seeing each year", said Evans.

Last Thursday, February 2nd, was Freddie’s big day! It was a little anticlimactic at first, though, as Freddie was reluctant to emerge from his burrow.

Eventually, though, the verdict came down. No matter if you like his prediction or not, Freddie always gives an honest opinion.

In this case, Freddie said more winter; he saw his shadow, and as legend has it—this means 6 more weeks of winter-like weather.

Freddie has been wrong before, like last year, but overall—he has a pretty good track record. In fact, the numbers since 2000 say that he’s been more accurate than his kin towards the north, Punxsutawney Phil.

Phil may have started Groundhog Day here in the United States, but Tyler Evans tells us the history of this Early-February Holiday begins on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

"Groundhog day is related to another holiday known as Candlemas. Early Christian clergy, overseas, they'd bless candles and give them to the people and it would help them get through the winter months. That eventually evolved into a celebration that the Germans began", said Evans.

Early on, Evans says that Hedgehogs and Badgers were first used for their weather prognostication—but those animals simply weren’t as available in the United States when German Settlers moved over, hence the Groundhog—the largest member of the squirrel family—was chosen to take their place.

It all started in 1887 in eastern Pennsylvania—and eventually made it to French Creek, West Virginia in 1978.

Ever since then, the West Virginia Groundhog has grown in popularity.

Our award-winning photojournalist, Brad Rice, asked this question to Evans, “has he gone national”?

Evans responded— “He’s on Wikipedia. They’ve been keeping track of his predictions on there along with Punxsutawney Phil, so I think there’s something to be said for that”.

We think so, too, Freddie. We’re glad that you call our Mountain State home.

  • To visit the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources homepage, just click here.
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