Today is Groundhog day! This year, Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow meaning winter will end early (maybe – this is not real science!)
The first documented American reference to Groundhog Day can be found in a diary entry, dated February 4, 1841, of Morgantown, Pennsylvania, storekeeper James Morris:
Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.
According to Groundhog Day organizers, the rodents’ forecasts are accurate 75% to 90% of the time. However, a Canadian study for 13 cities in the past 30 to 40 years found that the weather patterns predicted on Groundhog Day were only 37% accurate over that time period. According to the StormFax Weather Almanac and records kept since 1887, Punxsutawney Phil’s weather predictions have been correct 39% of the time. The National Climatic Data Center has described the forecasts as “on average, inaccurate” and stated that “[t]he groundhog has shown no talent for predicting the arrival of spring, especially in recent years.”
The groundhog has also been referred to as; Chuck, Wood-shock, Groundpig, Whistler, Thickwood Badger, Canada Marmot, Monax, Moonack, Weenusk, and the Red Monk. The name “Thickwood Badger” was given in the Northwest to distinguish the animal from the Prairie Badger. Monax was an Indian name of the woodchuck, which meant “the digger”. Young groundhogs may be called chucklings.
Despite their heavy-bodied appearance, groundhogs are accomplished swimmers and occasionally climb trees when escaping predators or when they want to survey their surroundings.
Several unforeseen incidents have involved animals handled during Groundhog Day events. During New York City’s annual Groundhog Day event at the Staten Island Zoo on February 2, 2009, a groundhog named “Chuck” drew blood when biting Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s gloved finger while Bloomberg was trying to lure Chuck out of his wooden shelter. Five years later, on February 2, 2014, Bloomberg’s mayoral successor, Bill de Blasio, dropped “Chuck” (subsequently revealed to be Chuck’s granddaughter, “Charlotte”), who seven days later died of “acute internal injuries”. At the city’s next Groundhog Day event on February 2, 2015, “Staten Island Chuck” walked out of a hutch that an elevator had lifted onto the stage of a portable Plexiglass-enclosed habitat, while de Blasio watched from six feet away.
— CNN (@CNN) February 2, 2016
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