You’ve certainly heard of, but have you heard of Milltown Mel? For years, Mel, a New Jersey groundhog, also predicted how long winter will last every February 2 based on whether he saw his shadow. But Mel has now “crossed over the rainbow bridge,” his wranglers said in announcing his death on Saturday.
Mel died just before Groundhog Day, leaving his community in central New Jersey “at a tough time of year, when most of his fellow groundhogs are hibernating.” In a Facebook post, the wranglers said no baby groundhogs will be available to replace Mel until the spring, so Milltown will do without one this year.
Mel has been serving since 2015, according to his Instagram. Last year, he predicted six more weeks of winter, but in 2020, he predicted an an early spring, CentralJersey.com reported. It appears Mel was quite the optimist, predicting early springs from 2015 to 2018.
His predecessor, who died in 2015, was also named Mel, according to the site.
The wranglers said they will work on getting a new “weather prognosticator for next year,” advising followers to check out what Mel’s “cousins” predicted this year. Punxsutawney Phil, the most famous weather forecasting groundhog, emerged Wednesday morning to.
While groundhogs don’t really have powers that allow them to predict the weather, the American version of the holiday has been around since February 2, 1887.
The tradition was started in Germany, where people expanded on a Christmas tradition of using candles to see how long winter would be. A hedgehog was selected as the next winter forecaster, and when German settlers came to Pennsylvania, they switched to groundhogs, which were common in the state, according to History.com.
The first Groundhog Day was observed at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and is still celebrated there to this day, as well as in other towns across the U.S.