Celebrating Groundhogs

Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day 2018 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

2 February 2020

Today the world’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, predicted the weather for the next six weeks. He says we’ll have an early spring.

Groundhog Day is the mid-point of the celestial winter, a cross quarter day that marks the halfway point between solstice and equinox. According to Wikipedia, Celtic and Germanic tradition says that if the hedgehog sees his shadow today winter will last 6 more weeks. (It will anyway; today is 6 weeks before the equinox.) If he doesn’t see his shadow we’ll have an early spring. At dawn in Punxsutawney it was overcast with light snow — no shadow, early spring.

There aren’t any hedgehogs on this continent so immigrants substituted the groundhog (Marmota monax) for their annual tradition.

In the early days groundhogs didn’t hang out near people but they soon learned we have something they want. Food!

Groundhog eating dandelions near the parking lot at Université Laval, Quebec (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Groundhog eating handouts at York University, Toronto, Canada (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Groundhog offered peanut (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

We also provide shelter, though unintentionally. Groundhogs use our buildings and concrete structures to make burrows for sleeping, rearing young, and hibernating.

Groundhog heads for burrow under a barn in Pennsylvania (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Groundhog emerges from its sidewalk burrow at Leslie Street Spit, Toronto (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Groundhog at York University, Toronto (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Groundhogs will emerge from their burrows this spring in Pittsburgh, probably later this month. I know they live in Greenfield (near my backyard!) and Andrew Mumma has seen them near Pitt. They’re something to look forward to.

Happy Groundhog Day!

p.s. You have to get up before dawn to watch Phil’s prediction live online at visitpa.com.

(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click the captions to see the originals)

5 thoughts on “Celebrating Groundhogs

    1. Thanks, Maria! I made the correction. I was foolish not to look it up while I was thinking of the road sign on US Rt 119 that points to Indiana & Punxsutawney. Yoy!

  1. I was quite surprised to see a groundhog crossing my Greenfield backyard a few days ago! Apparently the weather is mild enough this “winter” that they’re not all hibernating straight through.

  2. We always have very large groundhog out back in our yard in late spring summer. We call him/her the “land otter” — a name my teenaged granddaughter dubbed him. Luckily he/she stays out back & doesnt come in for our veggies or flowers in our garden. He/she just nibbles on the grass out there.

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