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Groundhog Day 2016

Tuesday, February 2, 2016Groundhog Day 2011 Prediction by Mrs. Pateman's 3rd Grade

2016 Stevensville third grade classes see shadows...just like 2011, there will be six more weeks of winter!!! The first official Groundhog Day took place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on Feb 2, 1886 (though references go back to 1841). German immigrants used animals, namely the groundhog (woodchuck), for a climate barometer and we continue that tradition today. February 2, also called “Candlemas”, is special because it is halfway between the first day of winter and the first day of spring. So what is the groundhog looking for? If he pops out of his hole and sees his shadow, we will have six more weeks of winter and the groundhog will go back to his burrow. If there is no shadow, out he comes and celebrates the early arrival of spring! The Refuge celebrates Groundhog Day with a Yellow-bellied Marmot (Bitterroot Bill) instead of the Woodchuck from the eastern part of the country. They are both marmots, closely related and share much in the way of behavior and habitats. Mrs. Pateman's class attended our 2011 event and saw Bill's shadow (jpeg to left). 

Groundhog Facts
• The Groundhog is a rodent of the family Sciuridae, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels.
• The average groundhog is 17" long and weighs as much as 11 lbs. They have two layers of fur: a dense grey undercoat and a longer coat of banded guard hairs that gives the groundhog a “frosted” appearance. These animals have short ears and a short tail. They can move surprisingly quick. The jaws are strong with teeth that grow throughout their lives.
• Groundhogs live near rocky outcrops in valley bottoms to alpine tundra; they avoid dense forest. They are active mostly at dawn and dusk.
• The groundhog has claws which make it an exceptional digger. The Groundhog lives in an intricate system of underground burrows, which even includes a separate “bathroom” chamber!
• A groundhog’s diet consists of lots of green plants, fruits, and vegetables and very little water. Most of their moisture come from dewy leaves.
• Despite their blunt, heavy-body, groundhogs are good swimmers and tree climbers.
• When alarmed, they use a high pitched whistle (‘whistlepig’ nickname) to warn the colony.
• When groundhogs are frightened, the hairs of the tail stand straight up.

Groundhog Day 2016

Led by Refuge staff -No Reservations required and FREE. 

Event starts at 12:30 pm whereby the search for Bitterroot Bill will begin in collaboration with Stevensville 3rd grade class. At 1 pm searchers will assemble and give the official proclamation of an early spring or not!
Main Contact Area: Meet at White Barn to find/observe Bitterroot Bill. Park along the west edge of Wildfowl Lane and meet at gate for synchronized entry to area.

Call Bob 777-5552 x203 or email bob_danley@fws.gov for more details.

Open to all members of the public. Binoculars available for loan.

Last Updated: Feb 02, 2016
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