02/02/2016 07:37 EST | Updated 02/02/2017 05:12 EST

Shubenacadie Sam, Nova Scotia Groundhog, Predicts Early Spring

The first of Canada's famed, four-legged forecasters has made his latest weather prediction and it's good news for the winter-weary.

Nova Scotia's Shubenacadie Sam didn't see his shadow Tuesday morning as he scurried from his tiny shed at a provincial wildlife park northeast of Halifax.

According to tradition, if the groundhog doesn't see its shadow when it emerges from its burrow on Groundhog Day, an early spring is in store.

As good as the pros?

"I would say that he's made some pretty accurate predictions over time, probably marginally on par with Environment Canada," said Nova Scotia's Natural Resources Minister Lloyd Hines, who had the honour of releasing a curious Sam from his home.

"We've come to rely on what he's had to say."

Although it was a brisk morning, a sign stuck in the snow outside Sam's shed reading "Yay! I didn't see my shadow" made it clear that warmer weather is expected to be on its way.

Hines said Sam was anxious to greet the fans who showed up to watch the celebrity forecaster at work inside a fenced-in area.

"He paraded around the perimeter and all the kids were pressed against the fence so they got a perfect view of him," he said. "This guy is a performer!"

Sam is the earliest riser among his fellow prognosticating rodents in North America, given Nova Scotia's time zone.

Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil, arguably the best-known weather predicting woodchuck, also predicted an early spring, drawing cheers and whistles from the crowd.

Ontario's Wiarton Willie will issue his long-term forecast later Tuesday as his community celebrates the albino woodchuck's 60th anniversary.

"We've come to rely on what he's had to say."

But this year's festivities have already been marred by the death of Sam and Willie's westerly counterpart, Winnipeg Willow.

Groundhog Day celebrations have been cancelled in Manitoba due out of respect for Willow, who died last Friday at the Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.

Punxsutawney Phil noted Willow's passing with his handlers saying they were surprised by news of the death of Phil's colleague.

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