Punxsatawney will host Groundhog Day prediction virtually this year
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When Punxsutawney Phil pops out of his hole on Tuesday, the groundhog will not be greeted by a massive crowd of spectators in Pennsylvania.

The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, the organization that has since 1886 carried on the tradition of using the groundhog to determine whether there will be six more weeks of winter, moved this year’s event online because “potential COVID risk to overcome are too great.”

The Feb. 2 event in Punxsutawney, Pa., is typically a weekend-long celebration surrounding the centuries-old folklore, which claims if a groundhog emerged from its burrow and did not see its shadow, spring will arrive early. If it does see its shadow, there is supposedly six more weeks of winter. 

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Typically guests travel from all over the country to visit Gobbler’s Knob, the groundhog’s home, for the annual prognostication. Instead, the area will be closed and the organization will livestream the activities beginning at 6:30 a.m.

Phil may perhaps enjoy the year off from appearing before a crowd. Last year, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) called for him to be replaced with an artificially intelligent robot because groundhogs are prey species that typically avoid humans.

“When Phil is dragged out of his hole and held up to flashing lights and crowds, he has no idea what’s happening,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk wrote. “Being relegated to a library ‘habitat’ for the other days of the year doesn’t allow him or the other groundhog there to dig, burrow, or forage. It’s no kind of life for these animals.”