The groundhog in question is the Staten Island Zoo’s “Chuck,” which is basically the Punxsutawney Phil of the Big Apple. Anyway, here’s what happened at last year’s Groundhog Day weather forecast:
On Feb. 9, the paper’s sources say, “Chuck” was found dead from “acute internal injuries” consistent with a fall like the one seen here.
Here’s what the Post says happened next:
Instead of revealing the sad loss, the zoo — which gets nearly half of its $3.5 million in annual funding from the city — told the staff to keep the mayor’s office in the dark about the animal’s fate.They told only a few zoo supporters — but claimed that the groundhog had died of natural causes.“I was told he died of old age, that he went to that big farm in the sky,” said Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D-SI), who later learned how the animal had died.
However, a spokesperson for the zoo told the New York Post that “it appears unlikely that the animal’s death is related to the events on Groundhog Day.”
A statement to The Washington Post from zoo spokesperson Brian Morris noted that the necropsy, performed by a Staten Island Zoo veterinarian, “revealed sudden internal injuries,” but the “exact cause of the injuries could not be determined.” Morris added that the injuries were “internal injuries that the animal most likely sustained sometime during the week after Groundhog Day, potentially overnight while in its exhibit.”
In an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday, Morris gave a little bit more context on the series of events leading to “Chuck’s” death.
Nothing that a zoo employee “may not have been forceful enough” when handing the creature to the mayor last February, Morris added that the groundhog drop was a “complete bungle.”
Here’s why, Morris told the AP, that the zoo thinks it unlikely the Groundhog Day fall killed “Chuck:”
Morris said the animal was given a thorough medical examination in the hours after the incident, and the check-up “revealed no evidence of trauma or pain.” The groundhog then participated in several events over the next week with no obvious ill effects from the fall…“We don’t know how the animal suffered the injuries but we don’t think it was from the fall,” Morris said. “We believe it happened sometime the night before she was found dead.”
The mayor’s office did tell the New York Post that it hadn’t heard about “Chuck’s” death until the paper’s reporters asked about it. Spokesman Phil Walzak told the Post that “we were unaware that Staten Island Chuck had passed but are sorry to hear of the loss.”
Morris told the AP that the Zoo felt it had no reason to tell the mayor about the groundhog’s death, adding, “It’s not like we were trying to spare the mayor’s feelings.”
But the Staten Island Chuck death cover-up isn’t the only groundhog conspiracy afoot, according to the paper. The “Chuck” dropped by de Blasio was actually “Charlotte.”
That’s apparently because the actual “Chuck” didn’t really get along with New York’s previous mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
Here is a video of Chuck biting Bloomberg in 2009, an incident, the Post says, that prompted the zoo to pull a switcheroo with its star groundhog:
“The zoo doesn’t make public that it has stand-in groundhogs to protect the ‘groundhog brand,'” the Post reports, citing “insiders.”
Speaking to the AP in response to the New York Post’s story, Morris explained that the zoo actually has four potential “chucks” on hand at any given time. On Groundhog Day, officials select “whichever groundhog is the least grouchy that day” to participate in the ceremony.
Groundhogs only live to be about seven years old. The “Chuck” responsible for biting Bloomberg, the AP confirmed with the zoo, is dead.
The Post’s report, in any case, didn’t address the biggest groundhog conspiracy at all: Why the city of New York entrusts its long-term meteorology to a marmot.
[This post has been updated.]