US & Canada

Bill de Blasio groundhog died after ceremony fall

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, left, winces as Staten Island Chuck breaks free and drops to the stage during the 2014 Groundhog Day ceremony at the Staten Island Zoo, in New York. Image copyright AP
Image caption Charlotte, aka Staten Island Chuck, fell several feet from the hands of de Blasio (left) to the stage

A groundhog that leapt from the arms of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio at a Groundhog Day celebration died about a week after the fall, zoo officials say.

The rodent, Charlotte, fell from the 6ft 6in (2m) mayor's arms in February.

Zoo officials said she died of internal injuries but do not believe her escape from the mayor's gloved hands caused her death, speculating she later suffered additional, fatal injuries.

Charlotte did not see her shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of winter.

'Staten Island Chuck'

First reported by the New York Post, Charlotte's untimely demise has become a popular topic on social media.

The New York event, held in the borough of Staten Island, is a spin-off of a Pennsylvania tradition in which ceremonial officials drag a groundhog known as Punxsutawney Phil out of hibernation every 2 February.

If Phil sees his shadow, according to the tradition, the northern US will suffer six more weeks of winter. If not, spring is imminent.

Zookeepers at the Staten Island Zoo chose Charlotte, a 10-month-old groundhog, from among four potential "Staten Island Chucks" that morning.

This year Mr de Blasio held the groundhog with heavy work gloves, a precaution taken after a previous incarnation of Staten Island Chuck bit Mr de Blasio's predecessor Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2009.

He briefly held it before it squirmed from his hands and fell several feet.

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Media captionPunxsutawney Phil predicts whether or not winter will end

'Bungle'

Zoo spokesman Brian Morris said Charlotte's handler "may not have been forceful enough" in placing the animal in Mr de Blasio's grip.

"It was a complete bungle," Mr Morris told the Associated Press news agency.

A medical examination in the hours after the 2 February mishap "revealed no evidence of trauma or pain", Mr Morris said, adding the groundhog had attended other events after the fall without incident.

Zoo officials believe Charlotte suffered other injuries in the hours before her death.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Bill de Blasio (centre) took office in January 2014

Mr Morris added the zoo did not immediately inform Mr de Blasio, who took office in January, of the death.

"There was no reason to do it," he said. "It's not like we were trying to spare the mayor's feelings."

In a statement, the mayor's spokesman Phil Walzak said the mayor's office was "unaware that Staten Island Chuck had passed but are sorry to hear of the loss".

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