Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Science of Groundhogs...

Groundhog day is celebrated in the United States on February 2nd each year. The myth that goes with it is that if the groundhog comes out and sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. "In the United States the tradition derives from a Scottish poem:
As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If Candlemas be cloud and snow
Winter will be gone and not come again
A farmer should on Candlemas day
Have half his corn and half his hay
On Candlemas day if thorns hang a drop
You can be sure of a good pea crop"

(Source: Accessed February 2, 2008)
But what about the science of groundhogs? Here's a link from the Universityof Michigan Museum of Zoology. You can learn about classification, Marmots, see pictures and learn other names for ground hogs. One starts with, "W." One starts with, "M." You can learn about diet and distribution of groudhogs and about their habits. If you go outside, you might see a groundhog today. You can observe it and make your own prediction about winter.

Do groundhogs have importance? You bet they do!
nathis/mammals/woodchuck/ is another site about groundhogs and offers a different perspective and some drawings. You might try doing some of your own drawings from your own observations. Or, in todays digital age, you might take some digital pictures. If you are in the United States, you might share your findings with a pen-pal (pen-friend) or e-mail pal overseas.

A third link on groundhogs is from the Smithsonian Institution, gives another name for a groundhog: "whistle pig." Can you whistle like a groundhog? What happens if a groundhog whistles and you whistle back?

Did you know a groundhog is a vegetarian? Perhaps you can eat a vegetarian meal today as part of your traditions of groundhog day. You can discuss vegetarian diets and also talk about groundhogs. Enjoy the day. It may snow tomorrow! (Of course, you can enjoy snow, too, but, it is nice to think about spring!)

(c)2008 J. S. Shipman.

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