Thursday, February 2, 2012

Happy Groundhog Day!

Every February 2nd in cities all across the U.S. and Canada, attendees of Groundhog Day festivals look to these famous rodents to predict whether Old Man Winter is on his way out or planning to stick around for another six weeks.
Photo: Aaron Silvers 
This tradition can be linked to ancient European lore, where bears and badgers were used for the same purpose. Groundhog Day in the United States can be traced back to the mid-1800’s in Pennsylvania, a region where festivals for the holiday are still very popular.

There are several reasons the groundhog, also known as the woodchuck, became the focus of this holiday in North America. First of all, they are quite widely distributed, with stable populations across nearly the entire eastern half of the U.S. and coast to coast in southern Canada. Also, groundhogs are some of the few animals that truly hibernate, sometimes for as long as seven months per year!
Unfortunately, groundhogs only successfully predict the end of winter about 40% of the time, so they’re not the best weather forecasters. However, there’s also a chance that they just want to go back to sleep!

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