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Groundhogs Around The World: Dunkirk Dave

Since 1966, a woodchuck named Dunkirk Dave has been providing a Groundhog Day prediction in Dunkirk, New York. This makes it one of the oldest and most consistent Groundhog Day celebrations in the world.

It all began, when Dunkirk Dave’s owner, Bob Will, discovered an injured groundhog as a boy. He subsequently brought it home and nursed it back to health, learning as much about the lovable animals as possible. Throughout his youth and teenage years Will continued to take care of sick or injured wildlife. He would go on to become a teacher and then a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

As a teacher, Will would often bring groundhogs into his classroom, and on Groundhog Day the class would often spend some time observing one. When the local paper learned about this sort of informal tradition, they stopped by to take photos and write an article about it. It was in this article in The Dunkirk Observer, that the name “Dunkirk Dave” originated, when reporter Ron Gustafson applied it to Bob Will’s groundhog.

Dunkirk Dave

Dunkirk Dave, photo courtesy

The Dunkirk Dave prediction ceremony originally took place at the school that Mr. Will taught at, but now takes place at his home. Around 50 people show up, in a normal year, to find out whether Dunkirk Dave thinks there will be a long winter or early spring.

There have been multiple Dunkirk Daves over the years. In fact Bob Will has many groundhogs that live with him year throughout the year and are under his care as a wildlife rehabilitator.

Although Punxsutawney has been providing a Groundhog Day prediction since 1886, according to Bob Will, Dunkirk Dave was the first live Groundhog Day to provide a weather forecast. Will says that Punxsutawney originally used unseen or taxidermy groundhogs, only adding a live groundhog much later, and after Dunkirk Dave had already begun his predictions.

Last year there was no in person viewing of Dave’s prediction. His forecast was provided via social media and the Dunkirk Dave website. It still remains to be seen whether a live prognostication will happen in 2022.

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