Groundhog Day Trivia
There's no shortage of nature-related folklore out there, but one that has particularly captured the hearts and minds of kids and adults (thanks or no thanks to Bill Murray) is Groundhog Day—and I know more about it thanks to my work at Mass Audubon! Every year on February 2, people across the country wait attentively to find out if this small furry little animal sees his or her shadow. As legend has it, a groundhog seeing its shadow means six more weeks of winter, but if there’s no shadow, it means spring is on the way.
So just how did this tradition get started, and what is a groundhog anyway? Amaze your friends and family with this groundhog trivia:
1. groundhogs go by many names
The groundhog belongs to the marmot family, and goes by many names, including woodchuck and whistle pig due to the sound they make through their large teeth to warn one another of danger.
2. Groundhogs dig deep
They nest in burrows that can be up to six feet below ground. These burrows sometimes have as many as five entry points, consisting of an intricate network of tunnels that often total up to 40 feet in length.
3. Groundhogs hibernate like bosses
While hibernating, a groundhog’s body temperature drops from 90°F to 40°F, and its heartbeat drops from 100 beats per minute to 4 beats per minute!
4. What’s the deal with February 2?
February 2 is the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.
5. The groundhog emerged from second place
Upon coming to Pennsylvania in the 1700s, German settlers brought a longstanding tradition known as Candlemas Day, which included a badger checking its shadow to forecast the weather. Since there were no badgers in Pennsylvania at that time, the settlers looked for the next best thing and chose the groundhog.