Friday, January 30, 2015
They are related to squirrels, though much larger, and instead of staying active all winter and raiding the bird feeder they hibernate. Which requires a good layer of fat. Which explains the raids on the veggie garden.
In the spring, the moms give birth to anywhere from two to six pups. One mama, nesting in a burrow in the hedgerow, had four babies last year. I met them when she gave them a guided tour of the route from home to the garden. She was just about to demonstrate "how to dig under the fence" when I put a stop to her tour. With a squeak and a whistle she had those pups running back to the burrow. She, on the other hand, headed in the opposite direction - perhaps to distract me?
Sometimes in the middle of winter, say around February 2, when it's good weather, male groundhogs will rouse themselves and emerge from their burrows to wander about their territory. This might be the origin of the "Groundhog Day" tradition of determining when spring will arrive: if the groundhog sees its shadow we have six more weeks of winter. Whether he sees his shadow or not, February 2 is conveniently located mid-way through winter, and there really are only six more weeks until the spring equinox.
As to whether groundhogs make good weather prognosticators, experts at the National Climatic Data Center seem to agree that the data show otherwise. Punxsutauney Phil, the most famous groundhog of all, has correctly predicted the coming of spring only 39 percent of the time - that's worse odds than tossing a coin.
Check out more groundhog facts here and here. And if you're wondering whether spring is on its way, walk outside on Monday and look for your shadow. If it's cloudy, you won't see it and spring is on its way. If it's sunny, you will see your shadow and we're stuck with winter for a bit longer. Either way, the first day of spring is 6 weeks away.
Today is STEM Friday, so head over to the STEM Friday blog to see what cool books bloggers are reviewing.