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Punxsutawney Phil predicts early spring

GROUNDHOG DAY: Groundhog Club co-handler Ron Ploucha holds Punxsutawney Phil during the annual celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney yesterday. The handlers say the furry rodent has failed to see his shadow, meaning he's "predicted" an early spring PICTURE: Keith Srakocic/AP
GROUNDHOG DAY: Groundhog Club co-handler Ron Ploucha holds Punxsutawney Phil during the annual celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney yesterday. The handlers say the furry rodent has failed to see his shadow, meaning he's "predicted" an early spring PICTURE: Keith Srakocic/AP

The handlers of Pennsylvania's most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, say the furry rodent has failed to see his shadow, meaning he has predicted an early spring.

Members of the top hat-wearing Inner Circle announced the forecast at sunrise, just before 7.30am local time.

A German legend has it that if a furry rodent sees his shadow on February 2, winter will last another six weeks. If not, spring comes early.

In reality, Phil's prediction is decided ahead of time by the group on Gobbler's Knob. The tiny hill is located just outside the town for which he is named about 65 miles north-east of Pittsburgh.

Records going back to 1887 show Phil has now predicted more winter 102 times while forecasting an early spring just 18 times. There are no records for the remaining years.

In New York, Staten Island Chuck agrees with Phil; an early spring is coming.

The groundhog did not see his shadow as he emerged from his home at the Staten Island Zoo early yesterday.