Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil peers out of his REUTERS/Stephanie Strasburg

Punxsutawney Phil, the Pennsylvania groundhog renowned for his ability to forecast the onset of spring, emerged from his burrow on Tuesday morning in search of his shadow in a folk tradition that has been embraced by winter-weary Americans for more than a century.

Phil did not see his shadow, meaning that the cold weather will loosen its grip on North America, and an early spring should be headed our way.

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The organizer, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, touted the 2016 event as "Phil's 130th prognostication," although technically it is not the same groundhog every year but one picked to represent the character.


Club spokeswoman Katie Donald said 1886 was the first year that the club trekked to Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney and the groundhog delivered a weather forecast. Media coverage of the event started the following year, she said.

"We go by the first trek, 1886," Donald said.

The event's website,, notes that "groundhogs are one of the few animals that really hibernate. Hibernation is not just a deep sleep. It is actually a deep coma."

This year's Phil, however, has not whiled away the winter underground like most of his species, also known as woodchucks.

Instead, Phil and his handlers from the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle made cameo appearances on Jan. 23 at Pittsburgh's Penn Brewery for the unveiling of its "Punxsutawney Philsner" draft beer and at a Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game.

While he is still the most famous of the weather-forecasting groundhogs, Phil has had to compete with a host of imitators in recent years. New York City, for example, has a groundhog of its own that has generated more than its share of controversy.

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The 2009 groundhog bit the hand of then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg during the annual Feb. 2 ceremony.

Five years after that, the groundhog was the injured party, when a groundhog named Charlotte fell hard to the ground after she wriggled out of the grasp of Mayor Bill de Blasio. The animal died of internal injuries a week later.

This year de Blasio will skip the event. Instead he is traveling to Iowa to campaign for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. He will not return to New York until Tuesday evening, his office said, long after the groundhog is out of harm's way.

New York's groundhog, Staten Island Chuck, has agreed with Phil this morning; he did not see his shadow. Spring is coming soon.

-Additional reporting by Jason Nuckolls/Metro

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