Move over, Punxsutawney Phil. This critter’s got the scoop on mountain weather


We all know the tradition of Groundhog Day. But did you know that West Virginians have their own groundhog meteorologist?

Our own weather-predicting critter lives at the West Virginia State Wildlife Center at French Creek in Upshur County.

Various incarnations of “French Creek Freddie” (who is actually a woodchuck) have been predicting the weather and drawing crowds since 1978.

Every year, more and more folks have been gathering at the Wildlife Center to see Freddie emerge from his hibernating abode, and the event has become quite a local celebration. The center gives out hot cocoa and cookies, a life-sized Freddie mascot parades around and there’s even a “wood chuckin” contest, which makes for a fun Groundhog Day celebration.

According to Groundhog Day tradition, if the groundhog sees his shadow the morning of Feb. 2, six more weeks of winter can be expected. If he doesn’t see his shadow, an early spring can be expected.

Sometimes Freddie eagerly scrambles out of his winter sleep, and other times he needs some coaxing, but either way, it’s a spectacle.

Is Freddie a better forecaster than his Yankee neighbor 200 miles north? That’s up for debate. Freddie’s southern counterpart, Concord Charlie, has been the official predictor of the coming of spring for years on Groundhog Day at Concord University.

We’ll see what Freddie has to say about the coming spring. One thing is for certain, though– if you come out to the Wildlife Center, you’re sure to catch a fun-filled, decades-old West Virginia tradition, and maybe learn a thing or two about our native wildlife!

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This post was last updated on July 17, 2020