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PETA wants to retire Punxsutawney Phil and replace him with this

Ron Musselman
York Dispatch
Groundhog Club handler John Griffiths holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 131st celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa. Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Phil's handlers said that the groundhog has forecast six more weeks of winter weather. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Punxsutawney Phil, the world's most famous groundhog, will emerge from his temporary home on Gobbler’s Knob Sunday morning and either predict an early spring or six more weeks of winter.

Phil’s Feb. 2 Groundhog Day prognostication has been an annual tradition every year since 1887, and the day is celebrated in the United States and Canada.

But the animal rights advocacy organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would like to see the weather-forecasting groundhog go into hibernation for good in Punxsutawney, Jefferson County.

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More:Spring or six more weeks of winter? York County's Groundhog Day events will reveal all

PETA sent a letter to Bill Deeley, president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, on Tuesday calling for Punxsutawney Phil to be retired to a reputable sanctuary and replaced with an animatronic version.

“Times change. Traditions evolve. It's long overdue for Phil to be retired,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in the letter.

“As a prey species, groundhogs actively avoid humans. Being in close proximity to the public causes these animals great stress. When Phil is dragged out of his hole and held up to flashing lights and crowds, he has no idea what's happening.

“Being relegated to a library "habitat" for the other days of the year doesn't allow him or the other groundhog there to dig, burrow, or forage. It's no kind of life for these animals,” she said.