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Staten Island Chuck Predicts That Winter Is Nearing Its End

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Staten Island Chuck did not see his shadow on Groundhog Day Saturday, which means he thinks an early spring is on the way. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.

He didn't want to come out, and who could blame him. But on a day when temperatures barely reached the freezing mark, Staten Island Chuck made the prediction everyone wanted to hear.

"We had a little conference," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "He told me all about what's gonna happen, and he wants everybody to know spring is coming!"

Speaker Quinn took over the job normally done by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who, for the first time in his tenure, didn't make the Groundhog Day festivities at the Staten Island zoo.

She was joined by a host of elected officials, residents and schoolchildren who turned out to see what's in store for the rest of winter.

"I would actually like his prediction because I'm kind of tired of the cold," said one student.

"I just wanted to make sure Chuck was getting an early spring, because this weather was confusing," said another. "We had that week of cold. I hope no snow comes."

Chuck's Pennsylvania nemesis, Punxsutawney Phil, also predicted an early spring. It's the first time in several years the dueling groundhogs have made similar calls about the weather.

"Chuck is far superior," said Ken Mitchell, executive director of the Staten Island Zoo. "Chuck's the real deal."

Chuck's handlers have been prepping him for the big day for weeks, using his favorite treats, corn and bananas, to get him moving.

"It was actually this particular Chuck's first time, so he [had] a little bit of stage fright," said Dr. Marc Valitutto, a curator and veterinarian at the Staten Island Zoo. "Knowing all these wonderful faces out here, people chanting his name, it was a bit nerve-wracking for him. But also, it's quite cold, and a lot of groundhogs go into a bit of hibernation mode, so he was a little bit sluggish this morning."

Zoo organizers pointed to the fact that Chuck's predictions have been right more than 80 percent of the time. They're hoping that's true again this year and that it warms up sooner than later.

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