Chuck was found dead in his enclosure just days later on Feb. 9, with “acute internal injuries” consistent with a fall, sources revealed.
In a desperate move — that is sure to be remembered alongside Watergate as one of history’s greatest cover-ups — zoo officials only told a few close supporters that the animal had died, but of natural causes.
The scandal then deepened when The Post revealed that Staten Island Chuck was actually a female stand-in, named Charlotte.
The real Chuck had secretly been swapped out after he famously nibbled on then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s leather-gloved hand at the 2009 Groundhog Day event, sources said.
The Staten Island Zoo kept the decoy operation under wraps to preserve the sacredness of the “groundhog brand,” the sources said.
Even Hizzoner himself swore he didn’t know.
“I found out as all of you found out – I had no idea previously,” de Blasio insisted at the time.
The story of Charlotte’s untimely death, however, resulted in a repeat cycle worthy of Bill Murray – with the mayor enduring months of endless ribbing about the incident.
“Having the mayor here means one thing, the city’s groundhogs are safe, but if Bloomberg were still in office the groundhog would not have fallen so far,” Al Smith IV, the great-grandson of New York Gov. Alfred E. Smith, cracked at the eponymous Catholic charity ball that October.
During the keynote speech, since-disgraced veteran broadcaster Charlie Rose also joked that Bill O’Reilly could not make the event because he was “out pushing his new book ‘Killing Patton’ and the next one he’s calling ‘Killing Groundhog’ and we know where he’s going for his research.”
“I go there and it’s 7 in the morning, which means my motor skills are not at their best. I put on these gloves, and they’re like, ‘Here’s a groundhog,’ I’m like, ‘What the f–k?’” the former mayor said, adding that he “100 percent regrets” holding the animal.
“I’m like, ‘Don’t you have a little more coaching to go with this or whatever?’ It was idiocy. Why would you want an elected official to hold a groundhog?” he scoffed.
The Staten Island Zoo’s Groundhog Day event will be open to the public Friday for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to SILive.
The zoo and de Blasio did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for a comment on the anniversary.