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Friday Creature Feature: Groundhogs
Tomorrow is Groundhog Day. Here is a photo of some “Groundhog Day Revelers” on a February 2nd from an unspecified year. One reveler is holding a sign that says “PHIL” so they could be Phil Jackson, Dr. Phil, or Phil Simms enthusiasts or just students from a local Pennsylvania university who thought they were at a sporting event.
A groundhog couldn’t read that sign but tomorrow a groundhog is going use its shadow to tell us if winter, the most awful time of the year will continue for six more weeks, or if spring will arrive early. You can think of the groundhog as an honorary member of NOAA.
The groundhog (Marmota monax), or woodchuck, is one of 14 species of marmot and is not endangered or threatened and can be found anywhere in North America’s wooded areas. Groundhogs are 16 to 26 inches in length including a 6 inch tail and weigh between 4 to 9 pounds. Groundhogs can grow bigger than their average size if food isn’t scarce and the predators like wolves, bobcats, and hawks
A groundhog’s diet is mainly vegetation but they have been known to eat insects and nuts but they don’t hoard their nuts like squirrels. Groundhogs do not need to be hoarders because they actually hibernate whereas squirrels remain active during the winter.
Groundhogs communicate with whistles that sound a lot like chirping which is why it’s also called a whistle-pig. They are brown or gray in color and the largest member of the squirrel family. They can climb, swim, and are excellent diggers; a skill they need to build the burrows they use for hibernating and living.
Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania is where the famous Punxsutawney Phil “the only true weather forecasting groundhog” lives. Phil is cared for by members of the Inner Circle including Bob Roberts.
Mr. Roberts has worn a top hat and been Phil’s protector since 1987 and his “Weather Philosophy” is: “God Bless Global Warming.”
One of the little known facts about Phil is that he sure does like his booze: during Prohibition he threatened to impose 60 weeks of winter on the community if he wasn't allowed a drink.
On average in the wild a groundhog will live about two to three years- six years tops- but in captivity groundhogs can live anywhere from nine to fourteen years and Phil well, he’s immortal. Phil drinks a magical punch (perhaps Prohibition era scotch?) every summer that gives him seven more years of life.
Tomorrow you can watch Phil’s 127th prognostication at Gobbler’s Knob via a live webcast. The fun starts at 6 am EST. Apparently groundhogs like to wake up early.
1944: Camano Class Light Cargo Ship was laid down for the US Army as FS-289 at Wheeler Shipbuilding in Whitestone, NY.
1955 - 1963: Used as a cargo supply ship for the Texas Towers, a network of advanced radar stations located off the Eastern Seaboard. In 1957, Capt. Sixto Mangual was commander of the AKL-17 and in 1961 it was rechristened the USNS New Bedford. The New Bedford, sailing out of State Pier, was keeping vigil when Texas Tower No. 4 callapsed off the New Jersey coast during a January 1961 nor'easter.
2006: Design of the Tesla Turbine began on June 11, 2006. The Sea Bird was sold by Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service for commercial service.