Whether or not you believe that the coming of spring is determined by the emergence of the famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil from his burrow, Groundhog Day is backed by rich folklore. Legend has it that if Phil remains outside the burrow, spring comes early. If it goes back inside its home, spring won’t arrive for another six weeks.
In recognition of Groundhog Day (always on February 2) here are some interesting facts about the star animal of this occasion, the groundhog.
Its scientific name is Marmota monax, and it is sometimes called a woodchuck or a land-beaver. Although it does not resemble a pig, did you know that a groundhog is also called a whistle-pig? This is because of its scream which is used to warn its colony of danger and resembles that of a pig squeal.
Groundhogs like open spaces and woodland thresholds. The shelter of groundhogs is called burrows. These are simply holes they dig in the ground. Their burrows are also where they hibernate during cold months.
Most groundhogs can be found in the northeastern states of the US, including northern Alaska, and throughout Canada. When the Europeans settled in North America, they started clearing the forests, creating more open spaces. Some theories suggest that because groundhogs love open areas, it is possible that there are more groundhogs on the continent today than ever before.
Groundhog in Hiding
As the winter arrives and groundhogs hibernate, their metabolisms slow down. This helps minimize hunger and support sleep. Groundhogs also have the ability to alter their body temperature so that they stay warm even if the weather is chilly. Groundhogs hibernate until about the second week of February. Then, their body clocks ring their alarm to signal the coming of spring and, voila! Groundhogs come out of hiding.