February 2nd is Groundhog Day! Seen the Hollywood film, but not quite sure what the day’s all about? Puzzled by this Punxsutawney tradition? You’re not alone!
Thankfully, we’re here to Phil you in on this printemps-predicting holiday and its burrowing star. And let’s be honest: we couldn’t pass up a perfect excuse to post lots of photos of groundhogs.
Let’s start with the basics.
In the USA, February 2nd is Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day takes place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (a bit of a mouthful), where each year on this day, a hibernating groundhog emerges from his burrow at noon.
Already loving the sound of this? It gets better: his name is Phil! But Phil isn’t any ordinary groundhog. He’s also the world’s most unlikely weather forecaster.
As superstition has it, if Phil can see his shadow, it means there will be six more weeks of winter. But if the weather is overcast, and there’s no shadow, then it’s believed that spring will come early!
While the festivities in Pennsylvania are perhaps the best-known, we're happy to report that there have been Canadian Groundhog Day traditions dating back to the 1950s. For decades, the star of this particular show went by the name of Wiarton Willie, with the festival taking place in the Ontarian town of his namesake.
Though the exact number of "Wiarton Willies" is unknown, as replacements weren't reported, the most recent rodent stars have gone by the names of "Wee Willie" and "Wee Willie 2".
So, love the look of the groundhog? These ravishing rodents, also called woodchucks, are a type of ground squirrel (yes, you heard that right). In fact, they’re one of the largest, strongest ground squirrels of them all! And they belong to the same family as such excellent animals as the beaver and the prairie dog.
Here’s a photo of a prairie dog:
And here’s an even more fantastic photo of a prairie dog:
Okay, just one more photo of a prairie dog:
But back to the woodchuck. These capable creatures feed mainly in the afternoon, often in a loose group with other groundhogs. Their snacks of choice include grasses, clovers, fruits and small animals, such as grasshoppers and snails.
Despite their size, groundhogs are able climbers and swim well! And in autumn they excavate a very deep burrow for their long hibernation.
So there you have it! The glamorous groundhog is quite the creature.
What do you think about this unusual holiday?
Image credits: Young groundhog pup: 123RF.com: oceanfishing, Front view of woodchuck: Dorling Kindersley: Frank Greenaway/Paignton Zoo, Devon, Black-tailed prairie dog: Dorling Kindersley: Gary Ombler/Cotswold Wildlife Park