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How long do groundhogs live? How old was Milltown Mel?

Milltown residents received sad news prior to this year’s Groundhog Day celebrations, their beloved weather oracle Milltown Mel passed away.

Update:
Milltown residents received sad news prior to this year’s Groundhog Day celebrations, their beloved weather oracle Milltown Mel passed away.
Milltown Mel Instagram

There won’t be a Groundhog Day prediction in Milltown, New Jersey this year due to the unfortunate demise of their beloved Milltown Mel. His Wranglers announced the news on Facebook just days before the town’s celebrations were set to take place. “We Wranglers are sad to report that Milltown Mel recently crossed over the rainbow bridge,” the Facebook post read.

Besides not being able to find a replacement on such short notice, this year’s celebrations were further complicated by other logistical problems due to the covid-19 pandemic. The ongoing health crisis affected last year’s festivities as well. Locals were unable to witness Mel’s prediction of an early spring in person, which was posted on social media, as he was in quarantine.

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How old was Milltown Mel?

The Milltown Groundhog Day tradition began in 2009 after Jerry and Cathy Guthlein went to Punxsutawney in western Pennsylvania to witness Mel’s cousin Punxsutawney Phil on Gobbler’s Knob make his annual weather forecast. OG Mel was replaced in 2015 by Mel 2.0, who had been auguring the early arrival of spring or more wintery weather until his passing which didn’t come as much of a surprise.

“Considering the average lifespan of a Groundhog is about 3 years, that is not such a shock,” a post read on his Facebook page.

The Wranglers tried to find a weather forecasting groundhog replacement “but to no avail!” They explained the major factors limiting their search; “Most of his fellow groundhogs are hibernating...so no babies will be available to replace him until this Spring.” Additionally, due to the covid-19 pandemic Middlesex County isn’t renting out the stage needed for the celebration.

However, despite the loss they expect the tradition to go on next year. “We will work hard on getting us a new weather prognosticator for next year, till then please check out what all of Mel's cousins have to say on Feb 2nd.”

How long do groundhogs live?

Your average groundhog doesn’t have a very long career predicting the weather, so with nearly seven years under his belt, Mel had a pretty good run. Wild groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, one average live four to five years, but can live up to six years. In captivity they can live ten or more years.

However, they spend half of their life asleep in a coma-like state and will not wake even if touched. They enter their burrows in the fall to begin the hibernation process and by mid-October will be completely asleep. They remain in that state until roughly February when they wake up for a brief time to go out looking for potential mates before returning underground. They don’t come out for good until March.

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