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Groundhog bites New York City's Mayor Bloomberg

February 3, 2009 | 11:34 am

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, right, holding the city's prognosticating rodent, Charles G. Hogg, also known as Staten Island Chuck, at the Staten Island Zoo during Groundhog Day festivities

Punxatawney Phil managed to remain professional during his annual prognosticating ritual Tuesday, but unfortunately for New York City's mayor, Phil's New York counterpart wasn't so calm and collected.  Our good friend Andrew Malcolm from the Top of the Ticket blog has the details:

So Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the one-time-Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent, was presiding along with Charles G. Hogg, the [Staten Island Zoo's] live groundhog prop, party affiliation unknown.

Bloomberg picked up the groundhog and enthusiastically waved it on high for the crowd to see, which may not have been what the awakening creature had in mind.

Then, according to a report by Bloomberg's own Bloomberg news, Bloomberg teased the animal with a cob of corn, giving the groundhog a nibble and jerking it away, then offering it again and yanking it away. Lotsa fun.

That's when Charles G. Hogg bit the billionaire. On the left index finger. Right through the official mayoral glove. Drew blood.

The New York Times' City Room blog notes that Charles G. Hogg (more commonly known as Staten Island Chuck) "is a healthy rodent, so he won't have to be sacrificed — and the mayor won't have to take a rabies shot." 

Speaking about the groundhog run-in at a press conference, Bloomberg referred to Chuck as a "terrorist rodent that might very well have been trained by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan."

But Mary Lee Montalvo, a spokeswoman for the Staten Island Zoo, painted the groundhog as victim rather than aggressor, according to the City Room:

He was probably nervous. There was a lot of activity outside, and he was probably nervous. He was basically concentrating on his food. The mayor's fingers may have just been there. He wasn't necessarily going for the mayor.

While Phil saw his shadow, Chuck did not -- so draw your own conclusions about when winter will end (or, heck, consult a human weather expert).

Groundhog Day

--Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Spencer T. Tucker/Associated Press
Video: Staten Island Advance

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