Celebrated every year on February 2, Groundhog Day involves a weather predicting ceremony, food, festivities, and, yes, a groundhog or two. Read on for five fun facts about our famous furry friends.
1. They’re celebrities!
More than 40,000 people visit Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania every year to see the most famous groundhog of all, Punxsutawney Phil, predict the year’s weather. And it’s not just the people of Punxsutawney who go ga-ga for groundhogs! Wiarton Willie was a Canadian celebrity in his own right, predicting the weather in Ontario. Even the Big Apple gets in on the groundhog game, with their very own weather predictor, Pothole Pete.
2. They can’t really predict the weather…
Sorry, Phil (and Wiarton and Pothole). Groundhogs can’t really predict the weather. These predictions have more to do with whether the sun is shining at the time of the groundhog’s appearance, in which case he would cast a shadow, or whether it’s a cloudy day, when he would not. Scientists and mathematicians have studied the accuracy of Groundhog Day predictions, determining that the groundhog has about a 50/50 chance of getting it right.
3. They can whistle!
Groundhogs are biggest marmots on earth and are part of the Squirrel family. They are also known as Woodchucks, Land Beavers, and Whistle Pigs. This is because groundhogs use a whistling sound to warn their family and friends of imminent danger.
4. They’re vegetarians (sort of)!
While groundhogs are fairly healthy eaters, they haven’t quite mastered a balanced diet… They stuff themselves all summer to prepare for hibernation, then slow their metabolism while they snooze in burrows below the frost line for up to 6 winter months. While they eat mostly grass, clovers, dandelions, alfalfa, and nuts they have been known to sneak an occasional snail or insect.
5. They can really dig!
Although they’re only about 2 feet long (and that’s counting those big, bushy tails!) and usually weigh a slight 7 pounds, groundhogs are super strong and have thick, tough claws that allow them to do some serious digging. They’ve been known to move up to 700 pounds of dirt when digging the burrows where they sleep, hibernate, and raise their babies! Plus, each burrow has several entrances, reached through tunnels up to 45 feet long! Can you dig it?