Punxsutawney Phil is the groundhog we all know for Groundhog Day, but can we still trust his predictions? According to USA Today, the answer is no! They stated that Phil is as accurate as flipping a coin. Even though it’s fun to eagerly await the little furry animal’s eruption from his hole to tell us what he thinks, it seems as though the groundhog has lost his edge and is now simply guessing. In the past 28 years, he has only been right 13 times. That’s only a 46 percent accuracy — he is right less than half the time! We could always try listening to the not so famous rodents from other states; North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, New York, and Alabama all have their own groundhogs who predict whether winter is staying or going.
If you’ve ever wondered how Groundhog Day started, we can tell you! It started with the Native Americans who lived in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Groundhogs were very important to the natives who lived in this area, as they believed the groundhogs were their ancestors. According to Stormfax, they named the land Punxsutawney after their description of the land.
The German’s brought their own ideas to America. Their tradition was Candlemas Day, and they believed that if this day was sunny, there would be six more weeks of winter. To predict the weather, they would use a badger in Germany. Much like our groundhog day, it was determined by whether the animal cast a shadow. When they came to America, they found that Groundhogs woke up from hibernation in the middle of winter, the same time as Candlemas Day. This is why they decided to depend on the groundhog in the new land.
The groundhogs, though, weren’t really interested in the weather. More importantly for them, groundhogs come out in early February looking for a mate! According to Fox2now, groundhogs have to find a mate in February so that in early March, they know where to go to mate. To be sure they have a mate in March, the males leave their dens in early February to discover where the females are hibernating. This is extremely dangerous because groundhogs have numerous predators that are just waiting for them to leave the den. Once a male has found a female, they go back to their homes and hibernate for the rest of February. In March, no matter how cold it is, the males go to mate with the females. If this doesn’t happen, the young will not have gained enough weight to make it through next winter. This explains why Punxsutawney Phil has only been about 55 percent correct for most of his career.
In most states, instead of depending on the animal on Groundhog Day, people hunt them and use them for food and fur clothing. All states allow groundhog hunting all year long except Wisconsin, where the rodent is a protected species. Due to the fact that groundhogs cause so much trouble to farms, most states allow them to be hunted due to overpopulation. The groundhog causes serious damage to farms, as they dig holes in the ground which cause farm animals to trip as well as damage to plows. Wisconsin has tried to open a groundhog season for hunting, but too many citizens claim it is cruel and that the hunters are simply killing for the thrill. However, many hunters have claimed they use the whole animal and do not senselessly kill the animal for the fun of it. No matter what side of the hunt you are on, Phil will still come out this year and attempt to tell us the future once again — however inaccurate he may be!
[Photo by Gene J. Puskar/AP Images]