Forget Punxsutawney Phil. Massachusetts has its own furry mascot to forecast the end of winter.
That would be Ms. G, a groundhog who lives at Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln.
As the official groundhog of Massachusetts — which is no joke, and an actual title bestowed upon her by the Legislature in 2014 — part of her duties is to educate children about the importance of meteorology, which she does every February at the annual Groundhog Day celebration at Drumlin Farm.
On Friday morning a crowd of curious children and adults gathered at the wildlife sanctuary to find out if the state’s most famous woodchuck would see her shadow. Ms. G sat in her crate as Tia Pinney, a senior naturalist at Drumlin Farm, introduced her to the audience.
Pinney told them to be patient, because Ms. G would decide when to come out of the crate.
“Punxsutawney Phil, they reach in and grab him out. We don’t do that here. We are far more respectful of our woodchuck,” said Pinney, who also noted that woodchucks and groundhogs are interchangeable terms for the same animal (“They’re one and the same,” she said.)
But the audience didn’t have to wait long.
Soon after the cage door opened, Ms. G poked her head out. The crowd of onlookers oohed and ahhed as she emerged from her crate and began waddling around the enclosed area. They laughed when she squeezed her body through a hollow log and giggled when she stood on her hind legs and looked around.
Pinney kept them focused on the task at hand.
“The big question is . . . has Ms. G seen her shadow?” said Pinney.
Everyone’s eyes were fixated on Ms. G.
Pinney asked the crowd what they thought before making the final call.
“Oh, what do I’ve got here?” she asked. “I’ve got it. Does anybody else see a shadow? Definitely, I see a shadow.”
“So what does that shadow mean? More winter. If she sees her shadow, she’s going to be frightened and go back down into her burrow for another six weeks.”
And that means spring won’t come early this year, and we’ll be stuck with cold weather for a while longer.
Ms. G’s prediction matched Punxsutawney Phil’s, as the Associated Press reported that he saw his shadow in Pennsylvania.
Friday marked Ms. G’s 11th Groundhog Day weather forecast.
“She is an absolute veteran of making her prognostication,” said Mass Audubon spokesman Michael P. O’Connor. “She did see her shadow, so that means we’ll have six more weeks of winter.”
Friday’s Groundhog Day celebration was attended by State Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew A. Beaton, Mass Audubon President Gary Clayton, as well as many children and parents.
“This is always a fun event for kids and families, and through the Ms. G event at this amazing sanctuary, the littlest children can learn a bit more about the natural world,” Beaton told O’Connor after the ceremony. “And it’s important to note that hibernating animals such as groundhogs may be impacted by the growing effects of climate change,’’ Beaton said. “As temperatures continue to rise there may be long-term negative effects, so we must be cognizant to teach those lessons.”
Emily Sweeney can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.