Hamptons Groundhogs Sam Champion and Allen McButterpants Differ on Groundhog Day Prediction

L. to R.: Groundhogs Allen McButterpants and Sam Champion gave their Groundhog Day forecast on Thursday, February 2, 2023.
L. to R.: Groundhogs Allen McButterpants and Sam Champion gave their Groundhog Day forecast on Thursday, February 2, 2023. (Photos courtesy of the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center and the STAR Foundation(

Hamptons groundhogs Sam Champion and Allen McButterpants issued conflicting weather forecasts on Thursday for Groundhog Day as residents gathered to learn the plump rodents’ sage advice on the seasonal outlook.

Sam Champion the groundhog, who is not to be confused with the WABC-TV weatherman of the same name, saw his shadow, which means six weeks of wintry weather ahead, according to folklore. Allen McButterpants, however, did not see his shadow, suggesting that spring-like weather shall precede the March 20 vernal equinox. 

“Sam Champion has spoken, six more weeks of winter,” the groundhog’s handlers said following his big reveal at the Quogue Library. 

McButterpants, the newest addition to Long Island’s celebratory Groundhog Day weather-forecasting rodent team, made his first prediction at the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays.

“The official proclamation is that Allen McButterpants does not see his shadow,” his handler, Tammy Flanell, the center’s education caretaker, told cheering revelers after the groundhog sniffed the grass, rolled on his back and stretched out before the adoring crowd.

Sam Champion’s prognostication aligned with that of Punxsutawney Phil, the nation’s groundhog in chief, who also saw his shadow, as did Holtsville Hal. McButterpants joined Malverne Mel and Staten Island Chuck in bucking Phil’s forecast.

A third prognosticator, Mortise the Tortoise who is also from Quogue, threw his hat in the ring midday Thursday when the Quogue Wildlife Center posted online a video “from an undisclosed location” in which the giant turtle reported not seeing his shadow, predicting an early spring.

Sam Champion the groundhog was previously known as Quogue Quigley, but came back under his real name Thursday after taking last year off due to the coronavirus pandemic, his keepers said. Sam Champion the weatherman had a field day with the groundhog named for him, extensively editorializing on the youthful handsomeness of his namesake woodchuck. No word from Al Roker on Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center’s second groundhog named Al Roker, who did not issue any predictions this year because he was in a bad mood since groundhogs are supposed to be hibernating this time of year. 

This year marked the first time Sam Champion the groundhog predicted more wintry weather. Every year he appeared as Quigley, he forecast an early spring.

The STAR Foundation rescued and rehabilitated both Al Roker and Sam Champion after they were found sick and separated from their mothers as pups, but they proved unable to fend for themselves in the wild and now call the rescue home.

Lori Ketcham, director of the nonprofit Save the Animals Rescue (STAR) Foundation in Middle Island — where groundhogs Sam Champion and Al Roker call home — recalled that when they tried to release Sam Champion, he started screaming and running back after the rescuers, demonstrating why groundhogs are also known as whistle pigs for the bird-like chirping sound they make.

“They make some really weird noises,” she said.

Like his fellow local meteorological groundhogs, McButterpants also has a tragic backstory. He came to the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center after he was found on December 14, 2020 in Westhampton suffering traumatic injuries, possibly from being struck by a vehicle, his rescuers said. He is believed to be about three or four years old.

“While in treatment he made significant progress but was deemed non-releasable,” said Delma Schoeppler of the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center. “He quickly became a staff favorite for his unusual calm demeanor … Since living in captivity, he no longer hibernates and therefore cannot tolerate the cold, so he stays inside on cold winter days and nights.”

McButterpants enjoys finger painting — could he be our first wild animal to be featured as a Dan’s Papers cover artist? — digging, and munching on dandelions, kale, broccoli, carrots and fresh string beans, which are his favorite, Schoeppler said.

His love for digging is unsurprising, as woodchucks are one of 14 species of marmot, or ground squirrel, which can remove an estimated 700 pounds of dirt when digging the typically five-foot-deep burrows they call home.

Groundhogs — one of the few wild animals that fatten themselves up in warm weather and hibernate for three months of winter — are the largest members of the squirrel family.

Happy Groundhog Day!

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