Wiarton Willie, the town’s legendary groundhog, has died

Image copyright AFP Image caption Wiarton Willie had a career that spanned more than 60 years

Britain’s Wiarton Willie would have been proud to discover that his home town in Canada had lost another mascot last week.

Mayor of Wiarton Willie First Nation Ernie Wytavich, who also hosts the popular talk show Being Wiarton Willie on Radio Canada, confirmed that Wiarton Willie, better known as “Wiarton Willie’s Spirit”, had died.

While there had been rumours for some time, Mr Wytavich said it was his step-daughter, Marie-Claude Handowan, who had first told him of the legendary animal’s passing.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Wiarton Willie had been brought to the community for fundraising events

She tweeted: “Some big news this morning. One of our “old souls” has left us.

“The legend that we all know and love #WiartonWillie has ended,” she said.

She posted a photo of the former groundhog, which was brought to the community in 1949 by a landowner who wanted something on display during fundraising events.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Wiarton Willie appeared in more than 1,500 promotional photographs

After being posted on the wall of the town’s grocery store, Wiarton Willie became something of a tourist attraction. He was photographed in more than 1,500 promotional photographs.

As Wiarton Willie grew in popularity, he became the “Most Popular Groundhog in North America”.

There were more than 1,500 Wiarton Willie promotional photos, and Wiarton Willie became famous throughout North America.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Wiarton Willie was billed as the world’s biggest groundhog

Wiarton Willie even had a book about him, featuring stories about him, and there was a three-part TV series, Willie and Wiarton Willie: Out With the Old, In With the New.

Just last week Mr Wytavich joked to reporters: “It’s a sad day for groundhogs.”

“So there will be no more Wiarton Willie,” he added, before explaining Wiarton Willie had played an important role in the community’s history.

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