The first official Groundhog Day in the United States took place February 2, 1887. Why February 2nd? The ancient Celts celebrated a pagan holiday called Imbolc marking the beginning of spring while Christians in the early days called this time Candlemas, the day that Jesus was celebrated with a feast due to his presentation at the temple in Jerusalem. Another consideration for this date is that February 2nd falls directly between the spring equinox and the winter solstice.
In any case, tradition says that if the groundhog or ground dwelling animal saw his shadow on that day, there would be 40 more days of winter. That is why we hope for an overcast or cloudy Groundhog Day to hasten the arrival of warm weather.
These facts are interesting, but the groundhog is not exactly accurate. His success rate in forecasting is about 50%. (On long term forecasts with our weatherman, the success rate in about 35%!)
Did you know that groundhogs, sometimes known as woodchucks, hibernate in the cold winter months normally starting in November? These wiry critters are ground dwellers and have a lifespan in the wild of about 3 years. They can make a whistle type sound with their incisors to warn other groundhogs of present danger. This ability has given rise to the nickname “whistle pig.”
Groundhogs breed in February or March having kits, also called pups or chucklings, in April and May. Groundhogs can climb trees and undermine foundations, not to speak of decimating garden vegetables. Farmers are not very happy when they see a ground hog because a ground pig can eat more than a pound of soybean plants per day. If you do the math that is a hefty loss of crop.
If you have problems with groundhogs, give us a call for evaluation to develop a plan to control your wildlife problem.