Since February 2 is the day normally set aside for the quaint observance known as Groundhog Day, it occurred to me that most people don’t honestly give these little critters a second thought any other time of the year. Shame. The groundhog is a versatile, widespread mammal, deserving of attention. And so, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the animal.
Here are TEN THINGS YOU PROBABLY DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT GROUNDHOGS.
1. Groundhogs are rodents of the family Scuridae, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots. They have thick fur, a stout body appearance and laser vision for stunning their prey.
2. Groundhogs are also known as woodchucks, land beavers and whistlepigs. They are sometimes called “the libertarians of the forest.”
3. Common predators for the groundhog include wolves, coyotes, bobcats, bears, hawks, owls, deer, foxes, turkeys, sea snails, tarantulas, cochlear implants and artists of the Romantic movement (1800-1850). Pretty much everyone hates the furry little bastards.
4. The world’s most famous groundhog is undoubtedly Punxsutawney Phil, fabled for his weather prognostications. Phil is looked after by a group of enthusiasts known as the Punxsutawney “Save the Bearded Owls” Club. A select group, called the Inner Circle, also plan the annual Groundhog Day celebration. Members of the Inner Circle are recognizable by their top hats and tuxedos. Yeah, these guys don’t date a whole lot.
5. When alarmed, groundhogs use a high-pitched whistle to warn the rest of the colony of potential danger. This allowed the early Algonquians to use them as an primitive version of the whoopee cushion.
6. Although many sports teams use animals as their mascots, no professional or college team uses the groundhog. There are beavers, wolverines, lions, bears, badgers, wolves, wasps, turtles, tigers, squirrels, rams, penguins, panthers, mules, owls, kangaroos, griffins, mastodons, eagles, falcons, ducks and cougars. But no groundhog. What? It wasn’t fierce enough? The University of California at Santa Cruz has the Banana Slugs, yet somehow groundhog doesn’t convey the appropriate amount of menace. Are you kidding me?
7. The Bill Murray film Groundhog Day, which was set it Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, was actually shot in Woodstock, Illinois. As a result, the governor of Pennsylvania declared war on the state of Illinois. The resulting skirmish lasted for three months, killing hundreds of thousands of citizens on both sides of the conflict.
8. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Two cords exactly.
9. Despite the name “ground-hog”, they are not made of sausage and are not associated with sausage products. Although the practice of “watch the sausage in the hole” exists, it bears little relevance to weather forecasting.
10. Broiled, poached or roasted, they taste like chicken!