by Jenna Morton
Here's a little groundhog, furry and brown,
He's popping up to look around.
If he sees his shadow, down he'll go.
Then six more weeks of winter
– oh, no!
It’s a pretty big job, forecasting the weather. But Canada is full of little furry guys just waiting to give it their best try!
Each February 2, a series of groundhogs across the country poke their noses out of their warm, little burrows, while crowds gather to see what they’ll predict. The theory goes – if the groundhog sees his shadow, we’re in for six more weeks of wintery weather. If there’s no shadow to be seen, then Spring might just be here sooner than we think.
There are a few go-to groundhogs for the big prediction. Most people can name US-based Punxsutawney Phil, thanks to a certain movie from the 1990s. Ontario’s Wiarton Willy also has a pretty big following. But the earliest predictions happen in Nova Scotia, where folks (usually schoolchildren and their chaperones) gather at wildlife parks to watch Two Rivers Tunnel and Shubenacadie Sam. (New Brunswick tried to start a tradition with Oromocto Ollie a few years ago, but I think the prognosticating paparazzi were too much for him.)
If your little one wants in on the excitement, check out the Sam-Cam. At 8am on Monday, February 2nd, Shubenacadie Sam peeks out his burrow for all the world to see – you can watch from the cozy comfort of your home! His handlers will also be interacting with him for feedings at 11:45am and 4pm, so you have a few chances to see the little fellow through the day. You can also follow him on Twitter.
Here are a few groundhog facts, with thanks to the wonderful Wiarton Willie.
Dig, dig, dig! Groundhogs love to use their short, powerful limbs and sharp claws to burrow into the ground.
Double-double. Groundhogs have two coats of fur, one short and one long, to deal with our cold climate.
Watch out! The groundhog has several enemies, including wolves, coyotes, foxes, bears, hawks, owls, and dogs.
Grub time. Groundhogs chow down on wild grass, alfalfa and other vegetation, berries and agricultural crops. They will also eat bugs and insects.
Sleep tight. Non-weather predicting groundhogs are one of the few species that enter into true hibernation, staying dormant from October to March/April.
Since Moncton doesn’t have its own furry weatherman, here’s how you can build your own!
You’ll need: paper (two shades of brown and white work great), black crayon or maker, googly eyes (optional), popsicle stick, small tube (toilet paper works great, so does a plastic cup), cotton balls/green tissue paper (optional).
Cut out three heart shapes, one on each colour paper. Two hearts, one white and one brown, should be roughly the same size, while one should be larger. You’ll have to judge by the size of your paper tube; you want the groundhog to be able to fold in half and slide down into the tube.
Glue the two smaller hearts on either end of the larger one, to make ears and teeth.
Use a marker or crayon to draw on a nose (the heart shape works, or a triangle), a few whiskers, and eyes if you’re not using googly eyes. (If you are, glue them on now. You could also find some black paper or ribbon to use for the nose and whiskers, depending on your stash of goodies and your child’s level of dexterity/interest.)
Glue the groundhog to the popsicle stick.
If you have the time/supplies/desire, decorate the top (or all!) of your tube. If you’re optimistic, perhaps you’ll go with some green tissue paper for grass. We chose some cotton balls to look like snow; white paper would also do the trick. (You can also use a styrofoam or plastic cup with a slit cut in the bottom to hold your groundhog; you can decorate the outside just the same.)
Feel free to name your little guy or gal (we created Boundary Creek Bob, Salisbury Sally, and Moncton Marvin) and chime in with your groundhog prediction. Given Monday’s forecast for Moncton, even if all the groundhogs predict an early Spring, I feel like we’ve got enough snow to last at least six more weeks!