The Moscow Zoopark announced on Facebook, “Friends, we have good news. Spring is coming soon. Our groundhog woke up”. Groundhogs come out of hibernation when temperatures start to rise. Hibernation is less like a deep sleep and more like a coma; the groundhog’s heart rate plunges, blood scarcely flows, body temperature drops to a few degrees above freezing, and breathing nearly stops. Towards the end of their hibernation period, groundhogs awaken briefly several times and pop out of their burrows to check the weather. They may or may not go back to sleep depending on how cold or warm the weather is. After they emerge from hibernation, groundhogs live on their remaining body fat for a couple of weeks to bring their digestive organs back to normal and to prepare for the mating season. They disguise entrances to their burrows to protect them from predators. Mating starts after groundhogs put on some weight.
Groundhogs offer their weather predictions not only in Russia. In the tiny Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney, a groundhog weatherman named Punxsutawney Phil made his forecasts since 1887. According to groundhog.org, after the animal appeared in the philosophical comedy film Groundhog Day in 1993, record crowds numbering as many as 30,000 went to the event. With a shadow powerful enough to lift spirits… or dash them… Phil met Pennsylvania governors, appeared on national television talk shows, and on New York City‘s Times Square JumboTron. In 1986, he even travelled to Washington to meet with US President Ronald Reagan. This year, Phil saw his shadow on 2 February, signifying six more weeks of winter.
21 February 2014
Voice of Russia World Service