Groundhog Day: A rodent holiday or just pseudoscience?

I'm all for the celebration of rodents; we just had Squirrel Appreciation day, and now today, we (sort of) celebrate another rodent, the groundhog (who happens to also be a squirrel!). I think it's cute, like everyone else, that somehow people are obsessed with the folklore (originated in the 1800s) that somehow a rodent could see into the future and predict the weather.

On the other hand, in this day and age, where people still question whether evolution is real and if the earth is flat, does Punxatawney Phil just encourage more pseudoscience?

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First of all, this is attributing some pretty high cognitive skills to a groundhog. But the headlines are a bit misleading. (1) We won't find out if winter is really over (2) Phil can't actually tell us if winter is over, and (3) at the end of the day, aren't we just measuring if it is cloudy or not?

Okay, groundhogs are really cute. Look at Staten Island Chuck!!

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"No shadow means early spring." Actually, no shadow means nothing.

ppAre these rodents even good at predicting the weather? Turns out, no. Their "predictions" are only correct 35-40% of the time. So don't put your mittens away yet.

Finally, I just want folks to be aware that Groundhog Day is not necessarily good for groundhogs (or the people trying to hold them). One year, Bill de Blasio dropped a groundhog, who later died from internal injuries. De Blasio's predecessor, Mayor Bloomburg, was bitten by the groundhog, Chuck, when he tried to pull him out of his hutch.

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So at the end of the day, while Groundhog Day is a great movie, and a cute holiday, it might be helpful to take a step back and think about what kind of message this day sends us about animals and science.

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2 thoughts on “Groundhog Day: A rodent holiday or just pseudoscience?

  1. Thanks for trying to bring sanity to our relationship with animals. As an ailurophile, I am amazed at the distortions that are out there.
    There is only one earth and we ALL live here.
    Keep educating us, please,
    For the cats,
    Denny

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