Search billions of records on Ancestry.com



Celebration of "Groundhog Day"

More information on "Groundhog Day"

Links to other Groundhog Sites

"Greasy Ole Groundhog (Roadkill Requiem)" (Caution: This contains some colorful language and if you cry easily you might want to skip this one.)

History of February 2nd

Woodchuck or Groundhog (Marmota monax)

The Groundhog, Our Underground Architect

A Tribute to Punxsutawney Phil and Wiarton Willy

Groundhog Day facts and factoids

Groundhog Day - Cartoon by Clark Hoskin

The Temple of the Flying Groundhog

GROUNDHOG (Marmota monax)



Celebration of Groundhog's Day
Groundhog Day in the U.S. and Canada
-- a day to forecast the weather.

Since 1887, members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club in western Pennsylvania have tried to note the first appearance of the rodent they call Punxsutawney Phil. If Phil comes out of his burrow into sunlight on February 2nd and spies his own shadow, he's said to jump back down underground -- dooming us all to six more weeks of winter. On the other hand, a cloudy Groundhog Day forecasts an early spring.

The groundhog's reputation as a weather prophet came to the U.S. in the mid-18th century with German immigrants. But this is really a very old holiday -- one that has its roots in astronomy. February 2nd is one of four cross-quarter days. It lies about halfway between a solstice and an equinox. Today's cross-quarter day was celebrated as Candlemas in England, where it marked the beginning of spring.

Try this old English rhyme -- "If Candlemas Day be fair and bright, winter will have another flight. But if it be dark with clouds and rain, winter is gone and will not come again."

Or here's another old saying -- "Half your wood and half your hay, You should have on Candlemas Day."

In Germany it used to be said that "a shepherd would rather see a wolf enter his stable on Candlemas Day than see the sun shine." A German badger was said to watch for his shadow. The National Geographic Society once studied the groundhog -- and found him to be correct only one out of every three times. One final note. It's supposed to be bad luck to leave your Christmas decorations up after today.



More information on "Groundhog Day"


The groundhog's reputation as a weather prophet came to the U.S. in the mid18th century with German immigrants known as Pennsylvania Dutch. They had regarded the badger as the winter-spring barometer, and reassigned the job to the groundhog after importing their Candlemas traditions to the U.S.

Other Europeans used the bear or hedgehog -- but in any case it belonged to a creature that hibernated. Its emergence symbolized the imminent arrival of spring.

The earlier celebration, Candlemas, is a traditional Christian festival that commemorates the ritual purification of Mary, 40 days after the birth of Jesus. It also marks the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple. Christians were observing this holiday in Jerusalem at least as early as the 4th century A.D. By the middle of the5th century, candles were lit on this day to symbolize the association of light with Christ.

In Ireland, February 1st is the feast day of Saint Brigit, the spiritual protector of sheep and cattle. According to tradition, she was born at sunrise as her mother, a Druid's slave, carried milk across the threshold of her master's house. In the same way, her feast falls on a seasonal crossroads -- between winter and spring. When winter is fading and the power of the spring sun is increasing. Prior to the conversion of the Irish Celts, Saint Brigit's Day was known as Imbolc, one of four seasonal junctions in the pagan calendar of Ireland. It was the start of spring, and its name refers to "ewes' milk" and to the birth of farm animals. Imbolc was dedicated to the Celtic goddess Brigit, who was associated with learning, poetry, crafts and healing. Many of her pagan characteristics were retained when she was made a saint.

Despite its place on the Christian calendar, Candlemas also has pagan roots. The ancient Romans observed the beginning of spring on February 5th -- they tidied farm and field and closed the year with a purification festival. The Armenian Church held an ancient fire-god festival each February 2nd. Future weather was forecasted by the behavior of smoke blown from fires lit in church courtyards.

In Britain, Candlemas marked the beginning of spring. For the British, theDecember solstice is midwinter, and Candlemas is a time of seasonal transition. In the U.S., February is also associated with seasonalchange -- but it takes a groundhog to reveal the connection. The groundhog's reputation as a weather prophet came to the U.S. in the mid18th century with German immigrants known as Pennsylvania Dutch. They had regarded the badger as the winter-spring barometer, and reasigned the job to the groundhog after importing their Candlemas traditions to the U.S. Other Europeans used the bear or hedgehog--but in any case it belonged to a creature that hibernated. Its emergence symbolized the imminent arrival of spring.

Groundhog Day is also the secular incarnation of Candlemas, a traditional Christian festival that commemorates the ritual purification of Mary 40 days after the birth of her son. It also marks the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple. Christians were observing this holiday in Jerusalem at least as early as the 4th century A.D. By the middle of the5th century, candles were lit on this day to symbolize the association of light with Christ.

Despite its place on the Christian calendar, Candlemas also has pagan roots. The ancient Romans observed the beginning of spring on February 5th--they tidied farm and field and closed the year with a purification festival. The Armenian Church held an ancient fire-god festival each February 2nd. Future weather was forecasted by the behavior of smoke blown from fires lit in church courtyards.

And finally, in Ireland, February 1st is the feast day of Saint Brigit, the spiritual protector of sheep and cattle. According to tradition, she was born at sunrise as her mother, a Druid's slave, carried milk across the threshold of her master's house. In the same way, her feast falls on a seasonal crossroads--between winter and spring. When winter is fading and the power of the spring sun is increasing. Prior to the conversion of the Irish Celts, Saint Brigit's Day was known as Imbolc,one of four seasonal junctions in the pagan calendar of Ireland. It was the start of spring, and its name refers to "ewes' milk" and to the birth of farm animals. Imbolc was dedicated to the Celtic goddess Brigit, who was associated with learning, poetry, crafts and healing. Many of her pagan characteristics were retained when she was transformed into a saint. These are just a few interesting facts I've uncovered about GroundhogDay/Candlemas.



Links to other Groundhog Sites

Pixel Dreams Groundhog Heaven (WoodChuck Heaven) -- Be sure to check out the sage of Chew & Chomp

From the Weather Capitol of the World, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania

The Official Groundhog Day Site

The Great Groundhog Day Book, History, & Catalog


Punxsutawney Phil's Home Page This site is dedicated to the "one, true" groundhog from the self-proclaimed "Weather Capitol of the World," Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

The Weimer's Groundhog Day Home Page

The Chamber of Commerce's Groundhog Day Home Page

Groundhogs@Sun Prarie Links to "Facts and Factoids," an article about last year's celebration, and more information about the little creatures.

The Committee for the Commercialization of Groundhog Day



"Greasy Ole Groundhog
(Roadkill Requiem)"
by
Craig Bailey email: ccb@floydianslip.com
c. 1989 Craig Bailey. Reprinted by permission.
http://www.floydianslip.com/floydbio.htm

It was long ago
this tale I'll tell,
Of a furry critter
I sent to Hell

But lend your ear
and then you'll see,
It was all just done
accidentally

Well I was driving down the road
Route 302,
Not a care upon my mind
'cept a hole in my shoe

The sun was shining bright
that summer's day,
I was cruisin' right along
everything was okay

But just about then
I looked away,
I took my eyes off the road
Hear what I say?

When I looked back up
and what did I see?
But an ugly little fella
looking back at me

It weren't no cat
and it weren't no toad,
But it stood right there
in the middle of the road

So I slammed on my brakes
and he ran for cover,
But it weren't no use
cause I hit the little mother

Well, I sat in my truck
for a minute or two,
Not exactly knowing
what it was I should do

So I opened up the door
and I hopped right out,
And what I saw
it left no doubt

(Chorus)

It was a greasy ole groundhog
two foot long,
Greasy ole groundhog
too far gone,
Greasy ole groundhog
seen better days,
Greasy old groundhog
here he lays

Just about then
I began to cry,
When outta the ditch
well, what'd I spy?

But another groundhog
a cute little gal,
I could only figure
the dead one's pal

I looked her in the eye
and I said to her,
"I'm aweful damn sorry
it happened in a blur"

"I was driving right along
not a care on my mind,
When I slammed your furry friend
right in the behind"

So she scurried to a stop
and took a look,
I was feeling just plain aweful
like a dirty ole crook

And she said to me
quite simply,
Ah, pay no mind
it's easy to see

(Chorus)

So I gave her paw a shake
and said goodbye,
I got into my pickup
and heaved me a sigh

But back out on the road
I just couldn't stop,
Thinkin' about that critter
I made go pop

So I drove to my shrink
and told him the tail,
Of the fuzzy little critter
I drove like a nail

And he looked at me
most confidently,
And casually said
ah, it's easy to see

(Chorus)

So I left the good doc
feeling sorta better,
I got back home
and pet my Irish Setter

But not a God's day
does come to pass,
I don't remember that critter
I nailed in the ass

(Chorus, fade)



History of February 2nd

According to popular legend, the groundhog -- or woodchuck -- emerges from from his winter hibernation on Groundhogs Day, traditionally celebrated on February 2. If the day is sunny, the Groundhog will sees his shadow and -- for some reason frightened by it -- he will return to his hole to sleep for 6 more weeks as we endure an extended winter. If it's cloudy, however, he won't receive the sleep-inducing fright and we are due for an early spring. European folklore attriutes this weather-forecasting ability to not only the groundhog, but the bear and the badger, too. And a similar tradition -- where snow and overcast skies signal and early end to winter -- is observed in northern Europe on Candlemas Day, which also falls on February 2 and in some areas marks the beginning of spring planting.



Woodchuck or Groundhog
Marmota monax

Distribution. Southeastern US to Alaska.

Woodchucks are the least social of all marmots and are widely distributed in suitable forest edge habitat. They are primarily active about seven months a year but may, weather permitting, be seen most months. Woodchucks produce about four young and virtually all females breed annually. Young mature quickly and generally disperse in their first year. Adults don't interact much--males may mate with the one or more females whose home ranges they overlap. When found around fruit trees and gardens, woodchucks are classified as agricultural pests. They rarely alarm call but their two loud calls probably function to warn dependent offspring.



The Groundhog, Our Underground Architect

The groundhog is known by several names. The most common one is the woodchuck (Marmota monax). Two long, chisel shaped, ever growing incisors indicate that the groundhog belongs to the rodent family. Groundhogs have muscular bodies and sturdy claws to assist them in digging, which they accomplish extremely well. Groundhogs also have a very keen sense of sight, smell, and hearing. The sensory organs are located near the top of the head, which enables the animal to check for danger by simply sticking its head out of the burrow.

Groundhogs spend most of their time in their underground burrows, which have one main entrance that can be identified by a large mountain of excavated soil immediately outside the entrance hole. The burrow also has one to four auxiliary entrances. All groundhog burrows are basically laid out in the same way. When digging a burrow, the groundhog starts digging inward for several feet, then inclines the tunnel upward for a few feet. After that, digging will proceed horizontally for 15-25 feet. This architectural design will prevent the tunnel from flooding.

From the main tunnel, two to three side tunnels are dug, leading to separate areas. One of these areas is used exclusively as a latrine. The groundhog is a very clean animal and will deposit all its waste in this latrine area. After the latrine is full, the area is sealed off and another latrine area is dug. At times, the groundhog will remove the dried excrement and bury it outside the burrow. The other areas are used as actual dens, used for raising the kits, sleeping and hibernating.

Adult groundhogs may weigh as much as 14 pounds, but usually weigh between 11 and 12 pounds. The weight attained by a groundhog at the time it starts hibernation is critical to ensure survival through spring. The minimum weight before hibernation for juvenile males is about seven pounds; for juvenile females six pounds. Animals weighing less cannot be released until the following year or they will not survive. Groundhogs live four to five years in the wild, but are known to live ten or more years in captivity.

Groundhogs are herbivorous and love almost all vegetable matter. Clover and alfalfa are probably their favorite foods. Dandelion greens, weeds, grasses, herbs and fruits, and vegetables of all kinds are also enjoyed. Groundhogs live in open woodlands, thickets, open fields, meadows and pastures, and are often seen along highways and in old cemeteries. They usually change habitats according to the season. In spring and summer, they prefer open fields, suburban backyards, and areas near vegetable garden. In fall and winter, they prefer wooded areas. Groundhogs rarely move more than one-half mile from their burrow.

As usual, man is the groundhog's greatest enemy. Most injured groundhogs received by rehabilitators have been injured by dogs, which are the groundhogs greatest threat. At times, a fox or bobcat may take a groundhog and juveniles are sometimes snatched by a large hawk or owl.

A Year in the Life of a Groundhog.

According to popular folklore a groundhog is able to predict winter's end by emerging from hibernation on February 2 and go back to sleep for six weeks if it sees its shadow. In reality it is too early for spring in this part of the country (Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania) where all the publicity about Groundhog Day started. The majority of males come out of their burrows in mid-to late February and females appear from late February to the middle of March.

Mating takes place in late February through March. The period from mid-March through April is a time of ravenous appetite and activity, as groundhogs hurry to mate and raise a litter by June. The young must have enough time to prepare for hibernation. Babies born after the end of April have little chance to survive the winter. That is why the breeding season is so short. Thirty to thirty-two days after conception, three to six groundhog kits are born. The one-ounce babies are blind, naked, and completely helpless. They are four inches long and have very short, fine whiskers. Within a week, the infants double their birth weight and show soft hair. When they are about twenty-eight days old, their eyes open. At about six weeks of age, the kits are about ten inches long and weigh around eight ounces. They become very active and start to follow their mother. The groundhog mother first emerges from the burrow to check the area carefully for enemies. If enemies are around, or the mother is startled, she will emit a shrill whistle of alarm. If the coast is clear, she will soon emerge from the burrow with her brood. The first outing is a great adventure for groundhog kits, because until that time their entire life was spent in total darkness in their underground burrow. While in the burrow, the kits nurse from their mother, but once they have emerged from the den the mother forces them to start eating grasses and other available vegetable matter. They usually refuse so it can take considerable time to get the babies weaned. Groundhog mothers are excellent teachers, making certain the kits learn the danger of enemies. She whistles to indicate danger and the brood disappears into the burrow.

In early June, the groundhog's metabolism slows and food intake also decreases, but their weight increase by 100 percent. July is a hyperactive period of the greatest weight gain, as metabolism decreases and food is converted to body fat in preparation for hibernation. Most of the groundhogs' energy goes to producing the fat deposits on which they will live during hibernation and after emerging from their burrows in late winter when fresh grass and vegetables are not available.

In September, ten days to two weeks before going underground for the winter hibernation period, the groundhog stops eating and slowly enters hibernation. By mid October, they will be asleep in their burrows and will hibernate through January or early February, when the next cycle begins.

Groundhogs truly hibernate. Bears are considered "pseudo-hibernators," as their body temperature in winter remains at near normal levels; while the groundhogs temperature falls to 40 degrees. They would freeze if their burrows were not below the frost line. The normal temperature of a groundhog is 100 degrees, but will gradually drop as low as 37 degrees. In this coma-like state, the groundhog is more dead than alive and will not wake up if touched.


My first experience with the underground architect came one day when a neighbor started complaining about some animal digging in her yard. We watched and observed, but never saw the culprit although a large mountain of earth appeared next to the opening. One day I got a call that a beaver was in the neighbor's yard and I should come and get it. After a mad dash across the street I did not see a beaver but a roly-poly groundhog sitting on its hunches and munching on a peach held in its front paws. After a while the "beaver" ran off into the opening next to the large mound of earth. Groundhogs, specially kits, are often mistaken for beavers, so I always am very dubious when I get beaver calls in areas without a source of water. It took some doing to persuade my neighbor to let the unwelcome intruder stay, but after a while the groundhog was an admired part of the community until he disappeared in early fall, just before the hibernation period.

Quite a few calls are received from home owners who want to get rid of groundhogs that have burrowed under houses, porches, or outbuildings. Sometimes a beach ball left to move across the lawn or a pinwheel or scarecrow sitting next to the burrow may intimidate the groundhog and make it them leave an area.

Other calls received are from people with horses, worried the horses may step in a groundhog burrow and break a leg. After talking with several people who raise horses, I was told that horses are too smart to step into a groundhog hole. Mostly people complain that groundhogs are harvesting their fruits and vegetables. Since groundhogs are good climbers, fences are effective only if the area to be protected is small. The fence should be buried about one foot underground to prevent tunneling under it and 3-4 feet above ground and protected by a single strand of electrified wire placed immediately in front of it at a height of 4-5 inches. (Pocket Guide to the Humane Control of Wildlife in Cities, The Humane Society of the United States).

Occasionally a groundhog will climb a tree to sun itself or to escape a predator, and it is quite funny to observe the groundhog climbing a tree and stretching out on a large branch to enjoy the safety and sun. However, most groundhogs are observed along highways, in grassy areas, meadows, and median strips, eating and always on alert. As more and more habitat is destroyed, these sightings are becoming more unusual, so enjoy the nature's architect while he is still around, enhancing our landscape.



A Tribute to Punxsutawney Phil and Wiarton Willy

On February 2 each year we get the chance to break out of the winter blues and celebrate our little furry friend, the ground hog. Whether we take it seriously or not (and many do!) it can be a fun day. Whether Punxsutawney Phil sees or doesn't see his shadow makes the difference between a long or short winter according to the folklore. This was last year's outcome. I wonder what it will be this year?

Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania

Home of the Groundhog

"As I cast my weather eye towards the eastern sky I saw some rays go by! When I looked at the ground, my shadow I found. When my shadow I see, Six more weeks of winter there will be." Punxsutawney Phil

Groundhog's Day originated in Germany where farmers used to predict the length of winter by observance of small animals, specifically the badger. When some of these farmers immigrated to America they brought the tradition with them. Due to a lack of badgers, groundhogs were substituted.

In Canada they have their own rodent of prediction, "Wiarton Willy". Though less famous, his predictions are probably as accurate.

In both cities, the celebrations are quite festive. The day is full of activities and fun. The press joins in to make sure the rest of the world is informed. The movie "Groundhog's Day" although somewhate exaggerated, captures the spirit of the moment.

In Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, the winters are far too long. Any excuse for some frivolity in the middle is a welcome break!



Groundhog Day facts and factoids

Groundhog, woodchuck ­ what's the difference?

Woodchuck and groundhog are common terms for the same animal, the rodent with the scientific name of Marmota monax. Most closely related to squirrels, woodchucks actually can climb trees and also swim.

What's so special about Feb. 2?

Celestially speaking, Groundhog Day on Feb. 2 is a "cross-quarter" day, about halfway between the winter solstice in December and the ver nal equinox in March, and is celebrated in some cultures as the mid point of winter. It's not far from the time many groundhogs end their hi bernation anyway, around the second week of February.

What's going on in that burrow?

In the winter, not much. Groundhogs go into profound hibernation, greatly reducing their metabolic rate, and their body temperature drops to just a few degrees above ambient temperature. Because their hibernaculum, the deepest portion of the burrow where they hibernate, is below frost line, that produces a body temperature as low as 39-40 degrees F.

What's the wake-up call?

The groundhog's internal clock is believed to be affected by annual changes in the amount of daylight. Hormonal responses to cyclic changes in production of melatonin, a sleep-related hormone, are thought by some to be the signal to wake up.

Why did groundhog fur coats go out of fashion?

Groundhog fur never was in vogue, partly because it is not particularly thick and warm, and because the fur's grizzled grey-brown appearance is more appealing to others of their species than to people. Groundhog hairs are used for tying trout flies, such as the 'Chuck Caddis, and early Ameri can Indians once used sturdy woodchuck hides for soles of moccasins.

What's for dinner?

Groundhogs in the wild eat succulent green plants, such as dandelion greens, clover, plantain and grasses. They also are tempted by nearby gar den vegetables. At Cornell, they dine on Agway Woodchuck Chow, a simi lar formulation to rabbit feed but in larger-sized pellets. Woodchucks binge and purposefully put on weight in the summer, reaching their maxi mum mass in late August. They become lethargic and prepare for hiber nation in October. By February, hibernating woodchucks have lost as much as half their body weight.

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

About 700 pounds. Compared to beavers, groundhogs/woodchucks are not adept at moving timber, although some will chew wood. (At Cornell, woodchucks that gnaw their wooden nest boxes are given scraps of 2-by-4 lumber.) A wildlife biologist once measured the inside volume of a typical woodchuck burrow and estimated that ­ if wood filled the hole instead of dirt ­ the industrious animal would have chucked about 700 pounds' worth.

Sources: College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University; New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; Mammals of the Eastern United States, Second Edi tion, William J. Hamilton Jr. and John O. Whitaker Jr.



Groundhog Day - Cartoon by Clark Hoskin
An editorial cartoon by Clark Hoskin

Groundhog Day © 1997 Clark Hoskin (jigger@nornet.on.ca)

Copyright © 1997 Clark Hoskin


Groundhog Day was first published in the Simcoe Reformer on February 3, 1997. It was inspired by Wiarton Willy's prediction that spring was on its way, and by news of major announcements of cuts and downloading of services by the Mike Harris government.



The Temple of the Flying Groundhog
Website of
kidder@sgi.net

"And in the days of the casting of nets there would arise one with the power to climb, and he would lead all in the great veggie hunt in the air."

--The Book of the Groundhog

The Temple of the Flying Groundhog is best viewed after a shot of Everclear.

All right, now that I've demonstrated I'm a crackpot, the remainder of our little web emporium.

Unpack your adjectives and send them to kidder@sgi.net

GROUNDHOG
(Marmota monax)

Scientific NameMarmota monax    
CLASSMammaliaORDERRodentiaFAMILYSciuridae
Statistics     
WEIGHT4.25-14 lbTAIL4-10 inLENGTH15.5-32 in


Range/Habitat:Eastern central Alaska, British Columbia, most of southern Canada, northern Idaho, eastern Kansas, northeast North Dakota; in the East, south to Virginia, and northern Alabama.

Description:The sun-loving groundhog is active by day, especially in early morning and late afternoon. A good swimmer and climber, it will go up a tree to escape an enemy or obtain a vantage point but never travels far from its den.

Adaptations:Its burrow, 8-12 inches wide, thirty feet long and up to five feet deep, has one or more tunnels terminating in a chamber containing a large grass nest and is used by other mammals, including cottontail rabbits, opossums, raccoons, skunks, and foxes which enlarge it of uses as a nursery den. If alarmed, the groundhog often gives a loud sharp whistle, then softer ones as it runs for its burrow from which it then peeks out. When angered, it chatters its teeth, and it can hiss, squeal, and growl. In late summer or early fall, it puts on a heavy layer of fat, which sustains it through hibernation. It digs a winter burrow with a hibernation chamber where it curls up in a ball on a mat of grasses. Body temperature falls from almost 97 degrees to less than 40 degrees, breathing slows to once every 6 minutes, and heartbeat drops from over 100 beats per minute to 4.

Courtship/Gestation/Birth:

Mating seasonearly springGestation28-32 daysLitter2-9


Diet:Green vegetation such as grasses, clover, alfalfa, plantain, and corn; can be found in people’s gardens munching on greens.

Remarks:Groundhog’s Day is February 2 of each year, when, according to rural American tradition, the groundhog leaves the burrow where it has been hibernating to discover whether cold winter weather will continue. If the groundhog cannot see its shadow, it remains above ground ending its hibernation, but if its shadow is visible (that is, if the sun is shining), six more weeks of cold weather will ensue, and the animal returns to its burrow.

Groundhogs are beneficial in moderate numbers, for their defecation inside the burrow, in a special excrement chamber separate from the nesting chamber fertilizes the earth, and their digging loosens and aerates the soil, letting in moisture and organic matter while bringing up subsoil for transformation into topsoil (in New York State they turn over an estimated 1,600,000 tons of soil each year).

The common name comes from a Cree Indian word, "wuchak," used to identify several different animals of similar size and color. This is where the name "Woodchuck" originated. They are also known as "Whistle Pigs" or "Marmots."




Cyber Grandma & Son Graphics


Return to Main Page


NOTE: All of the grahpics featured here
were found on numerous web sites and are
free to anyone. If you see a graphic that
is not free,



Thank you for visiting & we wish you and your family
a very Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with
good health, good friends, and more than enough good luck.



May the trail rise to meet you.
May the Sun shine always at your back and
may the Creator hold you in the hollow of His hand.



You are the 284213 visitor to this page since the counter
was reset on 6/25/99 when count was
6089 since December 20, 1997.
Check back often!

This page was last updated
Sunday, 28-Nov-2010 23:49:59 MST


© 1997 - 2010 by Maggie Stewart-Zimmerman