On this day, February 2, in the year 2014, newly minted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped a groundhog from his formidable six-foot six-inch stance. A week later, that very same groundhog was found dead. The Staten Island Zoo claims the two events were unrelated—whether you believe them, is a different matter entirely.
The groundhog incident of 2014—already dubious in its own right—is shrouded in inconsistencies and half-truths. The people of New York City were led to believe that the groundhog de Blasio so-briefly cradled (as the mayor does every year on Groundhog Day) was New York’s traditional harbinger of spring, Staten Island Chuck. It was not Staten Island Chuck.
This is Staten Island Chuck.
And this is the late groundhog Charlotte, Chuck’s very own granddaughter.
The difference is night and day.
Why, then, did the Staten Island Zoo lie to us about exactly which groundhog it planned to trot out on that fateful day? The zoo claims it feared Chuck’s contentious relationship with Mayor Bloomberg (the groundhog had understandably bit Bloomberg on prior occasions) would carry over to the new administration. So it decided to bring out Charlotte in the hopes that she might prove more even-keeled in the new Mayor’s colossal hands. And according to a zoo insider who spoke to The New York Post, Charlotte’s handlers kept quiet about the switch “to protect the groundhog brand.”
We all know what happened next: De Blasio sent Charlotte soaring (to the ground).
The mayor smiled abashedly. The handler quickly collected the fallen woodchuck. And we all had a good laugh at the silly mayor’s antics before going on about our day.
Then, nine months later, we found out the awful truth: The zoo had concealed the fact that Charlotte had died one week after her fall. Charlotte, beloved granddaughter to Chuck and friend to all, had been dead for months, and the zoo hadn’t said a damn thing.
The stand-in was found dead in her enclosure at the Staten Island Zoo on Feb. 9 — and a necropsy determined she died from “acute internal injuries,” sources said.
She had fallen nearly 6 feet when the mayor lost his grip during the Groundhog Day photo op. Sources said her injuries were consistent with a fall.
Instead of revealing the sad loss, the zoo — which gets nearly half of its $3.5 million in annual funding from the city — told the staff to keep the mayor’s office in the dark about the animal’s fate.
...“I was told he died of old age, that he went to that big farm in the sky,” said Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D-SI), who later learned how the animal had died.
The claims of old age, though, were lies. According to The Wall Street Journal, zoo officials did ultimately admit that Charlotte’s untimely end stemmed from “internal injuries and bleeding.” Still, Brian Morris, a Staten Island Zoo spokesman, went on to assert that “We don’t know how it fell. We don’t suspect any foul play or anything like that.” Of course you don’t, Brian.
Some might say there’s no need to “suspect” anything when the facts of the matter are so plainly evident. And now, de Blasio has mysteriously and suddenly decided to skip out on this year’s Groundhog Day event altogether.
Is it because he genuinely, truly wanted to campaign for Hillary Clinton in Iowa? Does anyone ever actually want to go to Iowa? Or does de Blasio know something that we don’t?
The groundhog was suicidally reckless despite the absence of any immediate threat. Let’s try to be clear... the groundhog jumped in an act of misanthropic disrespect for the solemn nature of the ceremony for which he was invited to be a major participant.... While the groundhog may have been lacking human intelligence, surely the animal had a clue that he should not be taking flying leaps from 5 feet up. Would [s]he do that under ordinary circumstances?
Yes, why would the groundhog take such a leap? And how many other groundhogs have similarly plunged (by choice?) to their own deaths? We reached out to the Staten Island Zoo for comment, but the zoo has apparently decided to keep the truth—like so many precious animals—under lock and key.
And of course, happy Groundhog Day.