Chuckles, the official state groundhog who resided at the , sadly died on Tuesday about four years after she arrived at the museum as an injured young animal.
Chuckles VII was brought to the museum after being hit by a car. According to a news release from the museum, Chuckles never fully recovered from her injuries and probably had a shorter life because of them.
For the last four years, Chuckles VII has been the official groundhog for Connecticut, giving Punxsutawney Phil of Pennsylvania some competition. Each year, the museum is packed with media and spectators as the groundhog whispers her prediction into the mayor of Manchester's ear. This year, Chuckles predicted an early spring, while Punxsutawney Phil thought we'd have six more weeks of winter.
With a mild February leading up to temperatures in the high 60s this week, Chuckles turned out to be right on the money.
"I always say, if you want Connecticut's weather, you have to go with Connecticut's groundhog," Lutz Children's Museum Director Bob Eckert said Tuesday.
Eckert said Chuckles VII, or Molly as the museum staff called her, was also known as "the diva." The groundhog that preceded her, Arnie, was younger when he came to the museum and became very tame during his 11 years as the official state groundhog, Eckert said.
But Molly "was still pretty wild and needed to be treated very cautiously and respectfully," he said. "Every groundhog we've had has had a completely different personality."
Eckert also said Molly "knew she was famous and had certain expectations." For example, he said, she loved bananas and would "pound on her door if she didn't have enough of them."
Back on February 2, Eckert said that Chuckles had a "100 percent accuracy rate."
"She's the only one who can accurately predict Connecticut's weather," Eckert said at the time. "She's been working for months. She's got her Farmer's Almanac and all of her charts and graphs and things. She takes this job very, very seriously."
In response to the news of Chuckles' passing, state Sen. Steve Cassano, D-Manchester, called her a "hero."
“Though she had been ill for some time, Chuckles was a always a symbol of comfort and joy for the kids," Cassano said in a statement. "And she was right-on in her prediction this year for an early spring since we’ve had the warmest winter probably on record. Chuckles died a hero.”
The museum says the search has already started for the next Connecticut State Groundhog, which could take some time. "The museum accepts only non-releasable wildlife referred by veterinarians or licensed rehabilitation facilities," according to the musuem.