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Punxsutawney Phil, You’re No Help!

By Chris Williams on February 3, 2015.
Punxsutawney Phil

Punxsutawney Phil in 2013

Here in the Northeast, we’re getting no relief from the relentless winter. If it’s not snowing, it’s icing. The victory parade for the New England Patriots was delayed due to even more snow in the schedule. Now, thanks to Punxsutawney Phil, we’re scheduled to endure at least another 6 weeks of winter.

February 2, Groundhog Day, was pretty miserable for Phil and everybody else in the Northeast. A reduced crowd of 11,000 people gathered at Gobbler’s Knob, Pennsylvania for the event that is now in its 129th year. Since 1887, Phil has predicted more winter 107 times and an early spring only 17 times.

Phil is Just a Token Groundhog

I was surprised to find out that Phil’s many handlers actually prognosticate for him, ahead of time, before he even makes his appearance. On Feb. 2 in Gobbler’s Knob, rain had turned to snow, it was overcast, and temperatures were near freezing. Yet, Phil’s top-hatted Inner Circle announced that he had seen his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter weather. Who are they trying to kid?

Here’s where I’m confused. If Phil sees his shadow (implying a sunny day), it’s supposed to mean 6 more weeks of winter, while if he doesn’t see his shadow (overcast), it means an early spring. Doesn’t this seem backwards? For the record, Phil’s lesser-known counterpart in New York City, “Staten Island Chuck”, did not see his shadow this year, predicting an early spring.

He’d Rather Be Hibernating

Groundhogs (you might call them woodchucks) are one of the few mammals here in the Northeast that practice true hibernation. A groundhog will lower its breathing rate, heart rate, and body temperature and enters a state of inactivity. Hibernation usually takes place from late fall until late February or early March. It’s a short winter for groundhogs since their mating season begins in March.

Cute as sleepy Phil is, he and his kind can be real pests in our region as they uproot vegetable gardens and pluck fruit out of trees (yes, they can climb trees!). Their large and extensive ground burrows are often under buildings and can undermine foundations.

At Colonial Pest, we are licensed and certified in the humane removal of nuisance wildlife, including groundhogs. For more on the secret life of groundhogs, see these blogs:

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