An investigation conducted by Backcountry Magazine and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has found that the climate-change advocacy nonprofit Protect Our Winters and the Pennsylvania-based meteorological prognosticator Punxsutawney Phil may have conspired to formally lengthen winter 2016-17.According to NPR, Punxsutawney Phil, the Marmota monax who has forecasted seasonal outlooks for 131 years, was in a particularly feisty mood on Thursday morning at Gobbler’s Knob near Punxsutawney, Penn. But officials say he saw his shadow, heralding six more weeks of a winter that, according to Instagram analytics, was dubbed “all time” in 12,642 photo captions in January alone.
The Associated Press confirmed the news from Gobbler’s Knob, adding that Phil has predicted winter 103 times while forecasting the early arrival of spring just 18 times.
But the special investigation by Backcountry and NOAA found that representatives from Protect Our Winters shipped between 42 and 64 lbs. of berries, clover, alfalfa and coltsfoot from Colorado grasslands to various post offices throughout Jefferson County, Penn. in an apparent move to incentivize Phil to protect this winter.
It remains unclear if the organic rodent feed reached the groundhog or factored into his decision making surrounding this winter’s length, but an official with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has deemed the act “suspicious.” Skiers and riders nationwide, however, have praised Phil’s foresight.
“With so much gridlock in Washington, I can totally understand why POW would use every tactic possible to secure six more weeks of winter, including bribing a rodent,” a source close to Protect Our Winters told Backcountry. “Plus, this winter in particular should be protected. I mean, 25 feet of snow in Tahoe in January? Punxsutawney Phil could move into my house and eat whatever he wants for six more weeks of that.”
As of press time, officials from Protect Our Winters had not returned Backcountry’s requests for comment. But we believe that while they’re undoubtedly busy protecting winter, they’re probably out enjoying it, too.