Groundhog’s Day – Some Furry Fun Facts
In honor of the Groundhog NOT seeing it's shadow (c'mon early spring!), here’s some fun trivia about North America’s second favorite weather prognosticator:
• Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, are a type of marmot, large rodents related to squirrels.
• Groundhogs have a large habitat, extending throughout most of North America, from Alaska, as far south as Alabama.
• In the wild, groundhogs usually live two to three years, but have been known to live up to six years. In captivity, they can live much longer. The original Wiarton Willie – one of Canada’s most famous prognosticating groundhogs – lived to be 22 years old.
• Groundhogs are typically 16-26 inches long, and weigh 4-9 pounds.
• Groundhogs actually have two coats of fur: a thick, wooly, grey undercoat and a longer coat of silky brownish hairs. This helps to keep them warm throughout the year.
• Groundhogs prefer to eat wild grasses, leaves, berries, and – as any gardener who’s ever had one around knows – food crops. They will also occasionally eat nuts, insects, grubs, snails, and other small animals.
• The average groundhog moves approximately 710 pounds of dirt when digging its burrow. Burrows can be up to 46 feet long and up to 5 feet underground.
• Groundhogs hibernate during the winter, usually between October and March or April, depending on the climate.
• If in danger, a groundhog will produce a high-pitched alarm whistle to warn the rest of its family. This is how they got the nickname “whistle-pig” in some regions. Other groundhog sounds include squeals, barks, and tooth grinding.
• There is actually more than one weather forecasting groundhog in North America. Some of the most famous include Punxsutawney Phil in Punxsutawney, Pa., Wiarton Willie in Wiarton, Ontario, Staten Island Chuck in New York City, General Beauregard Lee in Atlanta, Ga., Malverne Mel and Melissa in Malverne, N.Y., Brandon Bob in Brandon, Manitoba, Balzac Billy in Balzac, Alberta, Shubenacadie Sam in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, Gary the Groundhog in Kleinburg, Ontario, Spanish Joe of Spanish, Ontario, Sir Walter Wally in Raleigh, N.C., Pardon Me Pete in Tampa, Fl., Jimmy the Groundhog in Sun Prairie, Wisc., and Octoraro Orphie in Quarryville, Pa.
(by Farmers' Almanac Staff)