Sunday, February 8, 2009
How's this for a warning? Groundhog Staten Island Chuck bites Mayor Bloomberg on big day
BY JOE KEMP, ADAM LISBERG and HELEN KENNEDY
DAILY NEWS WRITERS
Sounds like they were rough handling the animal. Naturally, he is going to bite.
Listen how they treated him (the groundhog)
Updated Monday, February 2nd 2009, 7:12 PM
Chuck predicated that winter will soon end - then he bit Mayor Bloomberg.
Maybe it was revenge.
Last week, Mayor Bloomberg took a bite out of the Staten Island Zoo's budget.
Monday, the zoo's weather-predicting groundhog, Charles G. Hogg, took a bite out of Hizzoner.
"He got my finger pretty good," Bloomberg allowed, as he held the recalcitrant groundhog up in the air and declared spring on the way.
The Groundhog Day mayor-nipping came just three days after Bloomberg chomped 15% out of the zoo's budget, reducing it to $1.3 million from $1.6 million.
Sticking tongue firmly in cheek, the mayor, who was wearing black leather gloves, said his injuries weren't life-threatening and made clear he didn't buy the revenge theory.
He thought it might be more geopolitical.
"Clearly in this case, a terrorist rodent that could very well have been trained by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. I'm not at liberty to say anything more than that," he said.
Asked if Staten Island Chuck might be tossed into groundhog jail, Bloomberg quipped: "If the district attorney wants to press charges, I'll leave it to the Staten Island district attorney to do so."
Chuck clearly wasn't thrilled about the whole business of being pulled out of his warm wooden home and having his food ripped away.
He seemed happy to let his more famous competitor, Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil, have the glory.
So Bloomberg tried to lure him out with a corn cob.
The 10-pound critter just snatched the cob and retreated into his home.
There then followed an undignified tussle over the corn cob between mayor and varmint.
The mayor gave Chuck the cob. The varmint scurried into his hut. The mayor grabbed it and tried to lure Chuck out. The critter came out, grabbed it away and went back in. This happened a few times.
Finally, a zoo worker reached in and gave the rebellious rodent a discreet shove from behind. Bloomberg grabbed him - and Chuck chomped.
Later, Bloomberg quipped, "whenever the people of Staten Island are at risk, the mayor is willing to put himself and his physical well-being in harm's way to protect them."
The mayor wrapped his left index finger in a napkin until a doctor looked at it and a Band-Aid was applied.
An aide said the bite carried no risk of rabies because Chuck has been kept in captivity since birth.
"Rarely do you ever run into a woodland animal and its lifelong veterinarian is there," the aide said.
John Caltabiano, executive director of Staten Island Zoo, said, "The mayor handled [Chuck] with determination and vigor."
He did not mention cuts to the zoo budget or threaten to sic the beast on the mayor again.
Mayors of New York have had rocky relations with members of the furry rodent world. Mayor Giuliani famously declared war on ferrets, but was never actually attacked by one.
While Chuck predicted an early spring, it was not clear if his violent outburst presages four more years of Bloomberg.