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Groundhog Day, a popular tradition in the United States, is based on the legend of Candlemas Day, which states:
"For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day, so far will the snow swirl in May..."
On Groundhog Day a groundhog comes out of his hole after a long winter sleep to look for his shadow. If he sees it, he regards it as an omen of six more weeks of bad weather and returns to his hole. If the day is cloudy and, hence, shadowless, he takes it as a sign of spring and stays above ground.
They have short ears, a short tail, short legs, and are surprisingly quick. Their jaws are exceptionally strong.
A groundhog's diet consists of lots of greens, fruits, and vegetables and very little water. Most of their liquids come from dewy leaves.
The average groundhog is 20 inches long and normally weighs from 12 to 15 pounds. Punxsutawney Phil weighs about 20 pounds and is 22 inches long.
The earliest known American reference to Groundhog Day can be found at the Historical Society of Berks County in Reading, Pennyslvania. The reference was made Feb. 4, 1841 in Morgantown, Berks County (Pennsylvania) storekeeper James Morris' diary: "Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate."
Prefer Life in
City groundhogs have two advantages: they are getting more habituated to humans and keep eating even when humans are around, and they have fewer predators like coyotes.
Liza Watson, a U of I graduate student in wildlife ecology, has been tracking survival rates, movements, and general vigilance behavior in urban and rural groundhogs -- or woodchucks -- for nearly two years.
Vigilance behavior is when they are alert and scanning the landscape for predators. Groundhogs primarily rely on their sight to spot a predator rather than scent, so if there is any kind of disturbance, they stop what they're doing and look in that direction.
"If you're standing
on your hind legs all the time looking for predators, you can't be
feeding, and in order to survive hibernation, they need to spend as
much time as possible feeding during the active season. There's only so
much time in a day, so there's a trade-off there. If they're living in
an urban setting, they might be less vigilant because they've become
habituated to human disturbance and so they can spend more time
foraging for food," Watson explained.
urbanization give the groundhogs a natural buffer zone to protect them
from predators? U of I wildlife ecologist Robert Schooley says yes.
"They may know that urban settings are not as risky an environment.
We're trying to see whether they have become habituated to humans.
You've seen a tree squirrel that you can get within a foot of before
they run. In the same way, if groundhogs become habituated to
humans, they'll realize that urban areas are safe and be able to be
less vigilant and feed more.".
The Groundhog Day Book of Facts and Fun
Punxsutawney Phil Ty Beanie Baby
Groundhog Day Stickers
Groundhog Metal Cookie Cutters
Personalized Christmas Stockings
Sterling Silver Ground Hog Charm
The Groundhog Day Book of Facts & Fun