Happy Groundhog Day, Michigan!

Michigan Groundhog
Young Groundhog, photo by John E Heintz Jr

Happy Groundhog Day everyone! We’re hoping that folks in the southern part of the state are digging out all right!

Michigan has native groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, whistle-pigs, or land-beavers. You can learn all about them from the University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web under Marmota monax (woodchuck) which says (in part):

Woodchucks have numerous common names, including ground hog, and whistle pig. The word “woodchuck” is a misinterpretation of their Native American name “wuchak”, which roughly translates as “the digger”. Groundhog Day occurs when Punxsutawney Phil, a captive woodchuck held in rural Pennsylvania, is awakened from hibernation in order to determine if he will see his shadow. According to the legend, if he sees his shadow there will be 6 additional weeks of winter. If he does not see his shadow, legend predicts an early spring.

The legend of Groundhog Day is likely due to the fact that woodchucks often re-enter hibernation after emerging from their dens prematurely.

We all know about Punxsutawney Phil, but have you heard of Michigan’s Official Groundhog? Her name is Woody, and she lives at the Howell Conference & Nature Center and unfortunately is battling a severe respiratory infection so her alternate Murray will stand in if she’s unable to perform her official duties at 8:15 today.

Woody correctly forecast six more weeks of winter weather on February 2, 2014, much to the chagrin of close to two hundred shivering attendees of that Sunday morning’s Groundhog Day festivities.

Last year’s prognostication, her sixteenth, was made crystal clear by her outright refusal to even leave her home. With temperatures at the Nature Center hovering in the low 20′s and several inches of snow on the ground, the clairvoyant chuck’s behavior was interpreted as just another sign of her wisdom.

Read on for more.

View John’s photo bigger and see lots more backyard wildlife in his ANIMAL PHOTOGRAPHY slideshow.

4 thoughts on “Happy Groundhog Day, Michigan!

  1. The Detroit News reports:

    Howell Conference and Nature Center officials say Murray — an 8-month-old female — rendered her forecast Monday morning after seeing her shadow. She was standing in for Woody the Woodchuck, the state’s official groundhog recovering from a respiratory infection.

    Spokeswoman April Gasbarre says at least a foot of fresh snow was on the ground at the Livingston County center, which made the prediction seem appropriate. Murray stayed in her house, which staff members interpret as a reluctance to emerge and see her shadow.

    The not-so-scientific forecast comes after a storm dropped 1½ feet of snow over parts of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

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