Wiarton Willie: Canada town’s famed groundhog dies

Wiarton Willie, the town that inspired one of the most amusing selfies of the last century, as well as one of Canada’s best-loved sports analogies, has died.

The Wiarton Willie groundhog died a year ago. Those who were with him when he was able to see what would happen the next day have been sworn to secrecy.

Mayor Bruce Campbell said the incident last year may have put the rodent to sleep.

Campbell said Wiarton Willie, who was known for his remarkable groundhog prognostications for nearly 40 years, has apparently passed away.

“That’s probably what happened,” said Campbell who takes little credit for Wiarton Willie’s popularity, but is proud of his town.

In a news release, Campbell revealed what really happened one morning:

The story for 2012 was written and the ink was dry. On the very next morning, at 8:45, we got a phone call from a man who sounded like he’d been in the newspapers for decades, someone who must have been Bill Poistrouwer and had some great information, which changed our lives forever! He claimed he had the whole package and it was time to break the news, that Wiarton Willie had been mauled by a hawk and had died the following morning. It was true! It may not have been so thrilling for Winnie himself, or others who claimed to have met him, but for us – all of us – it was a real thrill, just to know that he was still around, and that we could be up in the air waiting for something, waiting for that first sound of his famous cry. He went on to perfect it for most of us and beyond, he wasn’t touched.

Campbell said everyone was unaware Wiarton Willie had been in reality a very big blur – not much of a groundhog at all. Campbell said in 1981, as she was urging him to go out, Wiarton Willie saw a bird.

“Since then, the rest of his story has been a blur.

In September 2011, the town built a new $1.6m groundhog enclosure to replace the old one – and that same year Bill Poistrouwer shot and killed the much-admired groundhog, Wiarton Willie for the second time.

Poistrouwer told the CBC he shot the once-popular groundhog twice, but the second time the groundhog rolled and Poistrouwer reckons he had to shoot him three times.

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