Saturday, February 1, 2014

Groundhogs: Tree-climbing false prophets of winter!

A tree climbing groundhog,  Oakland County, Michigan (late spring 2013)  photo J. Schechter

       On  Sunday, February 2nd a famous tree-climbing,  media-hog of a rodent on the slightly
 chubby side with the name of Punxsutawney Phil will be pulled from his burrow in Pennsylvania 
and  displayed to cheering crowds and TV cameras and be called upon to predict the weather. 
If Phil casts his shadow legend has it that winter is here to stay for six more weeks.

SECRET FACT: Listen up folks!
 Even is there is no shadow spring is a long way away. Groundhogs are still in hibernation
 with only four or five heartbeats a minute, a drastic drop  from the normal rate of 80-100. 
And their body temperature is still hovering just a few  degrees above freezing.  
Shadow looking on the 2nd?  I do not think so! 

Any doubt that the groundhog - also known as a woodchuck - is a member of the squirrel family should evaporate with one glance at this young chuck in a tree; a photo I took last spring at the edge of my woods.  This well known rodent, also known as a whistle-pig due to its shrill  warning call is the largest member of the squirrel family, belonging  to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots. Many homeowners consider them pests due to their gluttonous habits.
 But groundhogs  are loved by coyotes, fox and red-tailed hawks---as plump dinner entrees.

Love them or hate them Groundhogs Day is the day nature lovers and city dwellers 
 take time to salute this creature and celebrate the great winter weather myth~!


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