photo of groundhog on grass

Groundhog Day

Lots of facts about Groundhogs and Groundhog Day! Happy Groundhog Day 2023!

Every February 2nd, North Americans (particularly in the colder parts) hear news broadcasts about the local groundhog’s weather forecast for the spring.

brown rodent under gray rock
Photo by Niklas Jeromin on

The groundhog emerges from his hole in the ground, looks around and if he sees his shadow, winter will persist for 6 more weeks. If he doesn’t see his shadow because it’s cloudy outside – spring will come early. It doesn’t really seem to work around here, but I am always hoping for spring.

Goundhog on street sign
My local groundhog hanging on to a “Shared Pathway” sign last spring

Groundhog New 2023!

Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam – saw her shadow and predicts 6 more weeks of winter!

Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil – also saw his shadow sadly and agrees – 6 more weeks of winter.

Quebec’s Fred La Marmotte agrees with Phil and Sam! Unfortunately for Fred – he has passed away and been replaced by a puppet!

BUT – miraculously – Ontario’s Wiarton Willie did not see his shadow (I can’t see mine either – so I agree with Willie!) and we will have an early spring!

Saskatchewan’s Whelan Woody seems to have retired or met a similar fate to Fred! New Brunswick’s Oromocto Ollie is also “retired”.

Manitoba Merv is a puppet and has not yet prognosticated today!

Balzac Billy is a man in a groundhog costume – and also has not yet announced his prediction!

Van Island Violet is a marmot – and will not be waking up today for the celebration – as she is still hibernating at this time of year!

Groundhog Day Origin

We think of Groundhog Day as North American, but we actually borrowed the tradition from Germany, where an animal predicts the weather/spring on Candlemas (February 2), and depending on the region, it may be a badger, a bear or even a fox.

My local groundhog crossing the pathway
My local groundhog crossing the pathway

Groundhog eating peanut
Photo by Doug Brown on

I thought I would share some facts about Groundhogs and Groundhog Day today – because it’s just so darn cold here today – that I’m just staying at home trying to keep the pipes from freezing! Stay warm – and hope for spring!

Groundhog FAQs

What is a Groundhog?

The groundhog is a rodent belonging to family Sciuridae. It is a member of the marmot family – which are ground squirrels.
The groundhog is a lowland creature of North America; it is found through much of the Eastern United States, across Canada and into Alaska

Where do Groundhogs live?

The groundhog is native to North America – living mostly in the Eastern United States, across Canada and Alaska.

What family are Groundhogs members of?

Groundhogs are members of the Marmot family and are considered Ground Squirrels.

What are other names for Groundhogs?

Groundhogs are commonly known as Woodchucks, Land Beavers and Whistle-pigs.

Why are Groundhogs called Whistle-pigs?

Groundhogs may emit short high-pitched whistles!

Why are Groundhogs called Woodchucks?

The Indigenous North American words for Groundhogs include wuchak, wejack, and possibly otchek, which sound similar to Woodchuck. The name has nothing to do with wood!

How many babies do Groundhogs have?

A groundhog may have as many as nine babies per year.

How deep does a Groundhog hole go?

A groundhog hole can be as much as 10 metres long.

What is the origin of Groundhog Day?

The ancient Christian tradition of marking Candlemas on February 2 each year celebrates “the presentation of the child Jesus; Jesus’ first entry into the temple; and it celebrates the Virgin Mary’s purification
Clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. The candles represented how long the winter would be. The Germans added to this by selecting an animal (a badger or hedgehog or even a fox) to predict the weather. The German speaking Pennsylvania Dutch settlers to North America brought this tradition to America.

When was Groundhog Day first celebrated in North America?

It is unclear when this tradition began – but the first written mention of this is on February 2, 1840, in the diary of James L. Morris of Morristown Pennsylvania, a member of a Welsh settlement, commenting upon the activities of his Pennsylvania Dutch neighbours.
The first reference to Groundhog Day in a North American newspaper was in Punxsutawney Pennsylvania in 1886. 

When did Wiarton Willie first appear?

Wiarton Willie of Wiarton, Ontario Canada began celebrating his day in 1956.

What is Punxsutawney Phil’s accuracy rate?

It is believed to be about 39%

What is Wiarton Willie’s accuracy rate?

Wiarton Willie resides on the 45th parallel – halfway between the North Pole and the Equator, therefore he is said to be magically the most accurate groundhog – as much as 90%. It is estimated though, that he is only 25% correct.

Who are Canada’s Groundhog Day groundhogs?

The most famous 3 are Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam, Quebec’s Fred la Marmotte and Ontario’s Wiarton Willie.
Other Canadian Groundhogs may include:
Two Rivers Tunnel (also Nova Scotia)
Oromocto Ollie (New Brunswick)
Manitoba Merv
Whelan Bay Willie (Saskatchewan)
Balzac Billie (Alberta)
Van Island Violet (British Columbia)

Are Groundhogs the same as Gophers?

No. Gophers are not Marmots or Ground Squirrels (while Groundhogs are). Gophers are members of the Geomyidae family – which also includes the beaver. Gophers are native to Central and North America – but are much smaller than Groundhogs – at only 2 or 3 pounds. Groundhogs spend a lot of time eating leaves and fruits above ground – while gophers eat the roots of plants and rarely come out of their burrows.

Groundhog in meadow
Photo by Aaron J Hill on

This year, as we enjoy our cold, snowy weather, the groundhog’s silly news will gives us some happy distraction – despite Fred, Sam and Phil’s negative opinions (wrong, wrong, wrong!!) -I agree with Wiarton Willie and look forward to spring. Happy Groundhog Day! ad
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18 thoughts on “Groundhog Day

  1. Well here in Eastern Canada it will definitely be an early Spring, no shadows today– between 5am-11am we are getting 20cm of snow which is currently happening. Then the temp starts going up from our current -1C to 8C and the heavy part of the system with 80km winds and 50+ mm of rain!

  2. Over here in Saskatchewan we are about to enter into another cold spell. We’ve been spoiled this Winter though so I don’t mind so much.

  3. Here in Texas, we have Armadillos. If they come out of their hole and see their shadow, we have six more weeks of 100 degree weather. It’s all messed up down here. I lived in Ohio for a while and had a family of the critters behind my condo. Very friendly little animals, always begging for treats. Good information.

    1. Hope you stayed warm during those ice storms we’ve been hearing about! They can’t be good for armadillos. We see groundhogs locally behind the local doughnut drive-thru!

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