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

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

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. 


Tennessee Aquarium To Open Southeast's Only Independent Freshwater Science Center Oct. 27

The Tennessee Aquarium will open the Southeast’s only independent freshwater science center next Thursday at 10 a.m. This new home for the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute will be the base of operations for their research scientists, and a central location for other freshwater scientists to convene. (click for more)

TWRA Announces Availability Of Riparian Tree Planing Grants For 2017

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency announces the availability of grant dollars to assist cities, schools, community organizations, civic groups, watershed organizations, and conservation groups, etc., with riparian tree planting projects.  All seedlings must be purchased through the Department of Agriculture, Division of Forestry. Tree planting season in Tennessee is ... (click for more)

Mayor Berke, Lacie Stone Were At Swanky New York City Hotel While Bobby Stone Was Plying The River

Mayor Andy Berke's top advisor Lacie Stone accompanied him on a trip to New York City on April 12-13 and they ended up at a swanky spot where Ms. Stone's husband, Bobby, had taken her before. They sat at the Stones' favorite table.   Bobby Stone, who has accused his wife of having an affair with the mayor, has said that Lacie Stone told him that she and the mayor kissed ... (click for more)

Fire Displaces Family Of 7; Blaze Ruled Accidental

No injuries were reported in connection with a house fire on Saturday afternoon that displaced a family of seven. The Chattanooga Fire Department received the alarm at 4:11 p.m. and responded to 3308 Dodson Ave. with five fire companies. Captain Wadie Suttles with Engine 4 said heavy fire was showing when the first firefighters arrived on the scene. As additional firefighters ... (click for more)

Please, No Short Term Vacation Rentals In My Neighborhood

Approval of the short term vacation rental item on the City Council agenda for Tuesday  will be the next step toward commercializing our residential properties and communities to benefit those more interested in making money than preserving an old, well-established, rich community of like-minded families.    Anything requiring a business license is ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Kelly Could Win It

I am neither a sleuth nor an odds maker but I’d say there is about a one-in-three chance that Interim Hamilton County Department of Education Superintendent Kirk Kelly could become the permanent superintendent of our public schools next Thursday. I am assured something squirrelly is happening on our newly-seated school board. It has been seven months since the last superintendent ... (click for more)