Photo credit: AP/Gene J. Puskar
Seems like we just did this....but tomorrow is Groundhog Day and the world will hold its breath waiting to see if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow when he emerges from his winter hole.
If he doesn't see it, that means spring is right around the corner. If he does see it, he will return to his burrow because spring is at least six weeks away.
According to the well-worn history of Phil, he was first chosen as a weather forecaster in 1886 when the editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit, Clymer Freas, reported that local groundhogs had not seen their shadows that day, and he predicted that spring was not far away.
His prediction was probably based on European believes that badgers and hedgehogs can provide clues about the weather.
But you probably knew that about groundhogs. Here are some things you might not know, thanks the National Wildlife Federation:
- Groundhogs are true hibernators. They fatten up during the warm season and sleep for most of three months during the winter.
- During hibernation, its body temperature can drop from about 99 degrees to as low as 37. (Humans face death if their body temperature goes below 70 degrees.)
- The heart rate of a hibernating groundhog (also known as a woodchuck) slows from about 80 beats per minutes to 5, and breathing slows from 16 breaths per minute to as few as 2.
- Though he might go 150 days without eating, a woodchuck will lose no more than a fourth of its body weight, thanks to the lower metabolism.
- During warm weather, a groundhog might eat more than a pound of vegetation in one sitting, the equivalent of a 150-pound man eating a 15-pound steak.
- His burrow is located about 6 feet down, can meander underground for 20 feet or more and have between two and 12 exits. This helps the rotund little creature escape his enemies.
- And finally -- X-rating alert -- male groundhogs do emerge from their burrows in early February and wander around until they find the burrow of a female. They have a bit of a sleepover, but no mating occurs until they emerge for good in March. This is just a kind of get-acquainted period.