by Lucy of Luniquejewellery
February 2nd is Groundhog Day in the U.S. and Canada. But what exactly is a groundhog?!
The groundhog is species of rodent also known as the woodchuck, whistle-pig or land-beaver. They are found in parts of the U.S. and Canada and their natural habitat is farmland and woodland edges. The live mostly on the ground but can also climb trees and swim.
These chunky, cuddly-looking animals are mostly herbivorous, only occasionally eating small insects, and can live for up to 6 years in the wild.
As the name whistle-pig suggests, groundhogs are very vocal animals! They whistle, squeal, bark and chatter their teeth to indicate danger and communicate with other individuals.
Their main predators are snakes, coyotes, wolves and humans. However, they reproduce relatively quickly, giving birth to between 1 and 9 young, so the population remains strong.
Although groundhogs are usually solitary, several individuals may share one den. They will build a separate ‘winter burrow’ in which to hibernate. And it is when they emerge from hibernation that people look to them for a weather forecast!
According to folklore, if, on the 2nd of February, a groundhog emerging from its burrow sees its shadow (i.e. it is sunny) they will retreat back to their burrow, indicating another 6 weeks of winter. However, if it is a cloudy day, the groundhog leaves its burrow and that is a sign that winter will end soon.
The most famous weather man/groundhog is Punxsutawney Phil of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. He has even starred in the classic comedy film Groundhog Day with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell!
For anyone who hasn’t seen it, here’s the storyline- a weather man, also called Phil, is reluctantly sent to cover a story about Punxsutawney Phil. On awaking the 'following' day he discovers that it's Groundhog Day again, and again, and again. First he uses this to his advantage, then comes the realisation that he is doomed to spend the rest of eternity in the same place, seeing the same people do the same thing EVERY day.
So, what will the groundhogs predict this winter? We will have to wait and see… For now I leave you with words of wisdom from Bill Murray in Groundhog Day- “This is one time where television (or in this case a blog post) really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather.”