OK, you are more familiar with his well-known celebrity cousin Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog weather forecaster. Today, at 7:25 a.m., despite overcast skies, and 8-degree temps, Phil did not see his shadow in Punxsutawney, PA. And, no shadow means an early spring, but if Phil had seen his shadow, it would have meant six more weeks of winter per folklore tradition.
And Prairie Dog Pete probably did not see his shadow either — WHAT you never heard of Pete? (he lives at the Salisbury MD Zoo, which is where we spotted him.)
That’s Pete on the right above and one of Phil’s groundhog kin on the left above. They are both both members of the Sciuridae family, along with chipmunks, squirrels, and marmots. All have similar characteristics, like diet and behavior. But, most often confused are the the groundhog and the prairie dog.
The prairie dog can grow to 16 inches in length and can weigh up to 3 pounds with a stick body, short and thin tail that is less than one quarter of the length of its body. The coat of the prairie dog is mottled brown in to blend in with the surroundings. They are often seen sitting up on their haunches.
Pete and his fellow prairie dogs prefer temperate flat land; habitats include the western half of North America, from Canada to Mexico. Prairie dog are polygamous and live in colonies, which can cover over 100 acres. Pups are sheltered for the first few years and stay close to home for protection. They are communal, while some graze, others watch for predators and can warn all the animals into their burrow for safety.
Phil, the groundhog is bigger and can weigh up to 9 pounds and up to 26 inches in length. Groundhogs dig with claws and thickly muscled forearms. Their spine is slightly rounded; coat is grayish brown with has two layers for insulation during winter. The groundhog does not need flat land and is found over almost all of N.A., much to some homeowners’ dismay.
Phil also calls a burrow home, maybe adding to the confusion. But, groundhogs are less social, only three to four occupy the same burrow, used for winter hibernation, sleeping and raising young in spring and summer months. They burrow for protection, can climb trees or swim to escape attack.
NOW that you know the difference, HOW are you spending Groundhog Day — knowing that spring is almost around the corner?
LATER, we’re spending it in our usual way by watching the 1993 film, Groundhog Day. It’s become an annual event with us, year after year.
The 2012 post for Feb 2 had some info on the film, which will not be repeated over and over this year. All those familiar with the movie know the meaning of not repeating it.
Spring is Coming (soon)