NYC mayor happy to not hold a groundhog this year

AP News
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Posted: Jan 07, 2015 7:06 PM
NYC mayor happy to not hold a groundhog this year

NEW YORK (AP) — The groundhog might see his shadow on Feb. 2 — but he won't be seeing Mayor Bill de Blasio.

A year after a groundhog slipped from de Blasio's grasp during the annual Staten Island Zoo Groundhog Day ceremony, the zoo is reportedly making a change to prevent the mayor from handling the animal.

De Blasio, for one, would be happy with the new plan.

"I think reform is needed," de Blasio joked Wednesday during an unrelated news conference in Brooklyn. "I welcome a new approach."

A year ago, the creature squirmed from de Blasio's grasp after predicting six more weeks of winter and fell several feet to the ground. It died a week later.

An autopsy revealed it suffered internal injuries, but it was not clear if they stemmed from the fall.

Moreover, it was revealed that the rodent that died was not the zoo's famed Staten Island Chuck, but rather a female stand-in named Charlotte. The zoo did not notify the mayor's office about the death.

The story prompted a flood of Twitter jokes about a #Groundhoghazi cover-up and de Blasio's possible impeachment. And it wasn't even the first time a mayor had had an unfortunate run-in with a Staten Island groundhog: A squirming Chuck bit then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2009.

The New York Post reported Tuesday that the zoo is changing its ceremony this February so the mayor won't pick up the animal. Instead, it will be in a plexiglass case. A spokesman at the zoo declined to comment.

Last year was de Blasio's first time participating in the ceremony. He admitted Wednesday that he wasn't ready to handle the groundhog.

"I must say last time, there was not an overwhelming amount of preparation and orientation before I was handed him," de Blasio said. "May he rest in peace."

The zoo has four groundhogs, all with the variations of the brand name "Chuck." On the morning of Feb. 2, zoo staff selects which of the groundhogs will participate in the ceremony and be dubbed Chuck for the day.

The animal's formal name is Charles G. Hogg.