So, we know you’ve heard of Punxsutawney Phil, the world-renowned rodent that captures the hearts and minds of many Americans every year on Groundhog Day.
But Phil isn’t the only one worthy of such recognition.
Every February 2, friends and employees of the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge gather to honor their own mighty marmot – Bitterroot Bill.
This yellow-bellied fellow is a native species to western Montana, although he’s not a woodchuck like Phil. Bill is still part of the marmot family though, which is why we feel he’s still worthy of acknowledgement on the only day when Americans band together to honor rodents.
But the event at Lee Metcalf is distinct from the more famous Pennsylvania party. Bill is not held in a cage; event participants are encouraged to look for him as he roams freely on the grounds of the refuge.
Attendees first take an hour-long class to learn about Bill and marmots in general. (Fun fact: occupied marmot burrows often smell like chicken soup!) Participants then venture outside, armed with new knowledge, and head on over to the Grube Barn, where Bill and his family reside.
This year, Bitteroot Bill emerged from his rocky lair as he always does. The furry fellow predicted six more weeks of winter out west, which contrasts with his cousin’s prognostications about an early spring back east.
This event, like all events on our National Wildlife Refuges, would not be possible without the participation and enthusiasm of staff, local schools, conservation organizations, and the general public.