Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Thursday Thirteen 235: Groundhog Day

Happy Groundhog Day!

On this date last year, we were in the midst of a blizzard that dumped nearly 20 inches of snow across Southern Wisconsin. This year? Complete 180. Not only is there no snow, but we’ve had temps up to 50 degrees this week. 50—in January! It feels more like early April than February. So, chances are pretty good that rodent out in Sun Prairie is going to see his little shadow, and make us pay for all this unusually warm winter weather. In honor of it being Groundhog Day, here are a few facts about these famed weather prognosticators.

[ETA: Well, I'll be... Jimmy did not see his shadow this morning. Looks like we may get an "early" spring afterall.]

1. Groundhogs are the largest member of the squirrel family, weighing in at about 13 pounds, with the brain the size of a cashew. They are brown or reddish-brown in color, with black feet.

2. Also known as woodchucks or marmots, the average lifespan of a groundhog is 6-8 years in the wild, and up to 10 in captivity. They are naturally aggressive and do not make good pets. It takes a lot of training and patience to "tame" them.

3. Groundhogs are found in North America, primarily the northern and eastern United States, but also into Canada and Alaska. You will not find them in desert regions of the southwest, as they prefer areas where woods and fields abut.

4. Though ground dwellers, groundhogs can climb trees, and are fairly good swimmers.

5. Groundhogs will eat grass, fruits, vegetables and even tree bark. They can easily decimate an entire garden, putting on fat to prepare for the coming winter.

6. At the first sign of frost, groundhogs retreat to their burrows and hibernate until spring. During hibernation, the heart rate drops and body temperature isn’t much warmer than the temp of the burrow, about 40F.

7. The groundhog will lose half its body weight while hibernating (don’t you wish you could lose weight while sleeping?!).

8. In the spring, females will give birth to a littler of about six kits (or cubs), which stay with mom for several months.

9. February 2 is not only Groundhog Day, but also the Christian feast day, Candlemas. There is a saying associated with the day:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.

Sounds a bit familiar, yes?

10. The most famous groundhog is Punxsutawney Phil, who made his first prediction in 1886. He has a 39% rate of accuracy. Wisconsin’s Jimmy the Groundhog is reported to have an accuracy rate of 80%. Temperatures must be above freezing for seven consecutive days for a prediction of an early spring.

11. Wisconsin’s groundhog history is almost as old as Pennsylvania’s. Early journal entries from local farmers note observations of area groundhogs as far back as 1886, though an “official” Groundhog Day celebration did not begin until 1948, when Wisconsin celebrated its 100th anniversary.

12. In February1952, there was a congressional feud between the delegates from PA and WI over Groundhog Day that made national headlines. Later that year, Sun Prairie, WI was proclaimed “Groundhog Capitol of the World.”

13. The 1993 movie Groundhog Day stars Bill Murray, a weatherman who is forced to relive the same day over and over until he can become less selfish and learn to be a better person. Although set in Punxsutawney, PA, most of the movie was actually filmed in Woodstock, Ill.

Other Thursday Thirteen participants


i beati said...

It's been a gentle winter I believe in the groundhog

CountryDew said...

We have a mix of sun, clouds, and rain this morning. I personally think we're going to have an early spring, but with one hard freeze. I guess we'll find out!

The Gal Herself said...

It's foggy here this morning, so I think the local groundhogs will have a hard time doing their thing.

Thanks for the factoid about groundhogs being able swim and, especially, climb trees. Love it!

colleen said...

Now I know the difference between a groundhog and woodchuck. Same thing! I loved that movie.

Heather said...

Sandy: Looks like you were right to have faith in the groundhog. Jimmy did not see his shadow this morning.

Anita: No rain here, but it is rather cloudy. Looks a lot colder out than it is!

Heather said...

Gal Herself: I did not know they could climb trees myself, so that was a pretty cool fact to learn.

Colleen: Yup! And, it turns out, though they will eat tree bark if they have to, the groundhog/woodchuck really doesn't chuck that much wood.

Kimberly Menozzi said...

They have nasty tempers, but I always think they're adorable. :)

All I know for sure is we just got through two solid days of snow and are starting to dig out. Cloudy all day, until just before sunset, but below freezing all day long.

What does it mean, Phil???

Happy TT!

Alice Audrey said...

You've got me looking out my window. So far so "good", though I'd hesitate to call this good weather.

Ron. said...

Very cool list. I thought you might be interested in this:

Ms POSH said...

Stopping by to thank you for joining the Thursday Comment Club.

Have a great day!

Shelley Munro said...

It's certainly an interesting tradition. They always seem so docile when I see them on TV.

I am Harriet said...

I vote for an early spring as well!

Have a great Thursday!

Jaycee DeLorenzo said...

I'd say early spring, but I live in Tucson - it already feels like spring here.

Thanks for sharing!

Heather said...

Kimberly: They are cute, just not as cuddly as they look. Sorry Italy is getting dumped on. That's how our last five winters were.

Alice: Nasty weather out your way? Are you getting hit by some of that storm passing through the Rockies? It's supposed to give us a near miss, maybe some light rain/snow mix on Saturday.

Ron: Thanks, glad you liked it!

Heather said...

Ms Posh: Thanks, and thanks for visiting!

Shelley: It takes a lot of work and patience to make a groundhog "docile," and I find it interesting how far back this tradition or similar go.

Harriet: It already feels like spring here this week. We've hardly had winter at all. We were hit hard the last five years and now this year we've had very little snow or ice--much to the dismay of winter sports enthusiasts.

Jaycee: LOL - your spring probably feels like our summer. Thanks for visiting!

Hazel said...

Being able to hibernate like a woodchuck is what I sometimes really want to do. With my books. Ah... party!

Heather said...

Hazel: I hear that! I love lazy weekends where I can just hole up on my own with a good book or two.