Leave the Rodent Alone!
by Iram Khan
s February 2 fast approaches, schools, politicians, churches, and towns like Wiarton Ontario prepare for the most ridiculous holiday still celebrated: Groundhog Day.
A bit of history...
Groundhog Day has developed to the wonderful holiday it is today out of a number of Pagan and Christian traditions:
The "official" Canadian groundhog is Wiarton Willie, an albino groundhog who has an impressive 90% accuracy rate with his predictions. According to his official website, Wiarton Willie was born precisely on the 45th parallel - midway point between the Equator and the North Pole, and his talents were discovered in 1956. That means that Wiarton Willie must be about 43 years old. I may not be well versed in groundhogology, but isn't that a bit old? I found my answer, sort of, from The Groundhogs at HogHaven website where they state that groundhogs "can live for several years, however, most do not live that long... many do not survive hibernation." So either Willie is some sort of mutant groundhog, his very being distorted by some radiation or something, or Willie is one cantankerous little guy.
Now, for a more realistic explanation, Wiarton Willie attracts over 10,000 visitors to the small, small town of Wiarton, Ontario. Imagine what would happen if he died. Tourism would die and the money would run dry. Perhaps Wiarton Willie should change his name to "Tourism Buck."
I wonder how many albino groundhogs have replaced the original Wiarton Willie's den? Are albino groundhogs even a common occurrence? (If anyone knows, please let me know.)
Some Groundhog Facts
Hibernation Habits: Usually lasts from September or October to March or April, where their body temperature falls below freezing and their heart beat and breathing drops to near death proportions. Now, imagine waking up from such a deep sleep with pokes, camera flashes, loud music and cheers, just so the technologically advanced human race can be told whether or not they can put their shovels and winter apparel in storage!
Natural Enemies: Bears, wolves, lynx, bobcats, cougars, foxes, dogs and of course humans (especially mayors of small towns that need an economic boost).
Family Ties: After groundhogs are informed about the ways of the world, they are sent off to live on their own. Even after groundhogs mate, the male groundhog leaves the female to raise the cubs on her own. Groundhogs are quite the solitary animal.
Weight: 4-10 pounds. In the fall, they gain 20 to 30 percent of their body weight in preparation for hibernation.
Food: Groundhogs are mostly vegetarians. Unfortunately for the farmers and gardeners out there, groundhogs have been known to take off with entire tomato patches.
Groundhogday: A National Holiday?
A few members of parliament are trying to get Groundhog Day declared a national holiday. For example, last year, Ovid Jackson (the MP for Grey-Bruce, where Wiarton is located!) collected thousands of signatures and presented them to parliament for this cause. Every year this story, though, seems to pop up and then disappear like the groundhog himself.
Groundhog Day Links and Sources
The Rodent Corner
The Groundhogs at HogHaven
Wiarton Willie's Wonderland
Iram Khan would not like to be awoken in the middle of her hibernation, if she were a groundhog, that is.
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