Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Punxsutawney Phil and Groundhog Day in PA

February 2nd is Groundhog Day. The question everyone eagerly awaits an answer to is will he see his shadow when he emerges from his burrow? What does it mean if he sees his shadow? If the groundhog sees his shadow, winter will last for another six weeks. If he doesn’t see his shadow, hibernation and winter are over. What is hibernation? Hibernation is when some animals find a place to sleep through the winter months. The fat stored in their bodies will sustain them until spring arrives as they sleep through the winter. When the nicer weather appears, they wake up and begin foraging for food again.

My home state of Pennsylvania hosts the world’s most famous groundhog: Punxsutawney Phil. This will be Phil’s 130th appearance. He made his debut in 1887. The tale of Punxsutawney Phil is true American folklore started by the Pennsylvania Dutch settlers. Native Americans also highly revered the groundhog as a wise and sensible animal. To learn more about Phil, visit his website. Georgia has a groundhog named General Beauregard Lee while Canada has an albino groundhog named Wiarton Willie and State Island has a groundhog named Chuck.

Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks and whistle pigs, belong to the genus Marmota and Marmot family of large squirrels. Groundhogs are mammals, which means they are warm blooded animals with vertebrae, or a backbone, who nurse their young after giving birth to live babies. Groundhogs are herbivores eating primarily succulent greens, fruits, and vegetables. They typically are 2 to 25 inches in length and weigh approximately 12 to 15 pounds. They usually live to be eight years in age. It is interesting to note that groundhogs can climb trees and are excellent swimmers. Furthermore, they are nicknamed whistle pigs because of the loud, high-pitched whistle they give off when frightened. They will continue to whistle at a softer tone as they run to the safety of their burrow.

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