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. 

 


Youth Hunter Injured In Hunting Accident In Grainger County

A 10-year-old boy from Knoxville was injured Monday evening after he accidentally shot himself in the foot while dove hunting at Buffalo Springs WMA in Grainger County. TWRA officers report that around 5:45 p.m., the young man accidentally fired his shotgun into his foot and was then air lifted to UT Medical Center in Knoxville with non-life-threatening injuries. Records ... (click for more)

Tennessee's 2014 Dove Season Opens Labor Day; Early Canada Goose Season Also Starts

Dove season opens on Labor Day, at noon (local time), which marks the annual start of one of Tennessee’s most long-standing outdoor sports traditions. Tennessee’s 2014 season is again be divided into three segments: Sept. 1 through Sept. 28; Oct. 11 through Nov. 2; and Nov. 29 through Jan. 6, 2015. Hunting times, other than opening day, are one-half hour before sunrise until ... (click for more)

Greg Beck Asking County Commission Chairmanship; Others Seeking Post Behind The Scenes

Long time County Commissioner Greg Beck is seeking the chairmanship of the Hamilton County Commission, he said. Several other commissioners are working behind the scenes to try to get the top commission post. The job opened up after the unexpected defeat of Commission Chairman Fred Skillern in the August primary election. Larry Henry, who has held the chairmanship several ... (click for more)

1 Dies, 4 Injured In 2-Vehicle Crash At Soddy Daisy

One person has died in a wreck Sunday at Soddy Daisy in which four other people were injured. The wreck happened at 12:35 p.m. when a vehicle traveling north struck another vehicle that was pulling onto the highway. A small red truck was badly damaged in the crash. It happened at 12130 Dayton Pike near Tavern Sports Bar and Grille. One person was airlifted, while the ... (click for more)

Decimating The Chattanooga Public Library

Corinne Hill claims that the library is just undergoing a normal weeding process for eliminating books.  She has bragged that she's responsible for the elimination of over 100,000 books - with more to go. "Normal" weeding is not rampant throwing away.  Yes, books go to the Friends for their sale - where they get $2 for a $75 book and thousands wind up being recycled ... (click for more)

The Many Lessons I Learned From Helen McDonald Exum

Helen McDonald Exum was my friend and mentor. As I think of her passing I can only imagine the celebration that is happening in heaven as the news of her arrival is being told. I am sure that there is a party that not only has she organized but that there is not a detail that has been left to chance. I am sure that it is the grandest of events, for you see, she has been planing ... (click for more)