Groundhog Day: Not Just For Bill Murray Fans And Punxsutawney Residents

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - by Martha Hunter and Tish Gailmard
Groundhog
Groundhog

You might call them groundhogs, woodchucks, or even “land beavers” and “whistle pigs” as well. Although it may not be the most reliable way to check the weather forecast these days, Groundhog Day has an interesting history. 

Originating thousands of years ago, people in Germany once used the badger, which they believed had the power to predict when spring would arrive, to decide when to plant their crops. When German settlers arrived in Pennsylvania only to find that there were no badgers, they used the groundhog to predict the start of spring instead. By the time Groundhog Day moved continents, people most likely no longer believed in the badger or groundhog’s powers, but chose to continue the tradition anyway. 

Following this tradition, if the groundhog sees its shadow on Feb. 2, winter’s midpoint, he will become afraid and return to his burrow for the next six weeks until winter is over. If the groundhog does not see his shadow on the other hand, spring is said to be near. 

Outside of the annual ceremony, you might spot a groundhog near woodland or farm areas, its natural habitats where the woodchuck spends its time swimming or climbing trees, a useful trick he uses to avoid predators. The groundhog feasts on greens, such as dandelion, clover, and plantain, or in early spring when greens are not yet available, bark, buds, and twigs. 

Once a year, during the winter, the groundhog hibernates, surviving off its summer fat stores. Other than bats, the groundhog is the only true hibernating animal in the southeast area, although they can also be found throughout most of the United States, ranging as far North as Alaska and southeast all the way to Alabama. During its hibernation period, the groundhog’s heart rate and breathing slows to an alarming rate of one heart beat every four or five minutes and one breath every six minutes. The groundhog’s body temperature plummets as well to only 40 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Due to an unhealed injury, our resident “whistle pig” now resides at the Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center where he currently serves as an animal ambassador and participates in many local nature education programs. 

 


Grundy County Man Dies After Falling Out Of Tree Stand

A Grundy County man when he fell out of a tree stand while hunting. The victim was identified as Michael "Moty" Nunley. The incident happened Saturday afternoon shortly before 1 p.m. in the Clouse Hill area. (click for more)

Outdoor Chattanooga News And Events

Here are news and events from Outdoor Chattanooga: Cravens House Christmas Program December 2 & 3 Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park invites the public to attend a Christmas Open House at the Cravens House located on Lookout Mountain. The Cravens House will be decorated in a manner very similar to the Civil War era. This special holiday event will ... (click for more)

City Council Approves $2.19 Million Purchase Of Body Cameras For Police Officers

The City Council on Tuesday night voted unanimously to approve the $2,191,544 purchase of body cameras for city police officers. Councilman Chip Henderson, who heads the council's public safety committee, said the purchase was already included in the budget. The city will get some help from the federal government in the form of a grant for almost $300,000 toward the expense. ... (click for more)

Fire Lieutenant Who Caught Baby Dropped From 3rd Floor Of Burning Building Has To Give Up Career Over Incident

A Chattanooga Fire Department officer who was hailed as a hero after catching a baby dropped by the mother from the third floor of a burning building lost his career as a result of the incident. City officials said after Lt. Vernon Lane caught the 10-month-old baby boy that the mother then jumped and landed on him. He suffered severe injuries and has been unable to work ... (click for more)

An Open Letter To Tennessee Electors Of The President - And Response (2)

This an open letter to the following people who are Tennessee's presidential electors this year: Joey Jacobs (Brentwood), Beth Scott Clayton Amos (Nashville), Jason Mumpower (Bristol), Susan Mills (Maryville), Liz Holiway (Harriman), Lynne Davis (Lascassas), Tom Lawless (Nashville), Mike Callahan (Monterey), Pat Allen (Clarksville), Shannon Haynes (Alamo), and Drew Daniel (Memphis).  ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: You Can’t Sue You

The Hamilton County School Board will convene an hour earlier tomorrow to discuss “facilities” and the question of the hour is “Which ones?” Several communities are actively studying pulling away from the county’s Department of Education and the stew is thickening by the day. Now comes the revelation that school board attorney Scott Bennett has sent an email to the town of Signal ... (click for more)