Beau, as the rodent is known, is the second in a line of groundhogs that has been making Groundhog Day predictions at the ranch for 27 years. The Yellow River Game Ranch in Lilburn closed unexpectedly on Wednesday.
The ranch told DNR that they were closing on Wednesday, according to spokesman Mark McKinnon. The agency did not force the ranch to close and had “no reason to,” McKinnon said.
The ranch was in good standing and had successful DNR inspections, according to McKinnon. However, the ranch had been repeatedly cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in inspections for issues related to animal health. The USDA office that has oversight over the ranch, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, did not have any enforcement action pending on the ranch, and is unable to force it to close, said spokesman R. Andre Bell.
Owner Codi Reeves has not responded to requests for comment on why he chose to close the ranch.
While the ranch is closed to the public, employees were on site Thursday caring for the animals. The farm animals, including cows and goats, will not be relocated by DNR. The ranch must determine what to do with them.
Where the animals deemed wildlife will go has not yet been determined, DNR said. The process will begin after Jan. 1, 2018. Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, in Locust Grove, is “ready and willing” to take in any animals they can, though they have not been contacted by the ranch or DNR as of Dec. 21, said Allison Hedgecloth, the sanctuary’s animal husbandry manager. Noah’s Ark is also willing to help facilitate the relocation of animals from Yellow River Game Ranch, Hedgecloth said.
It is not yet known whether Beau will continue his Groundhog Day tradition in his future home.