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Joe Manchin III, Governor

Frank Jezioro, Director


News Release : January 26, 2006


Hoy Murphy, Public Information Officer (304) 558-3381

Contact: Rob Silvester, Wildlife Resources Section (304) 924-6211


West Virginia State Wildlife Center to Celebrate Groundhog Day


  West Virginia State Wildlife Center 's weather prognosticator, French Creek Freddie, is poised to forecast the onset of spring on Thursday, February 2, 2006 at 10 a.m. French Creek Freddie has undertaken his annual ritual at the West Virginia State Wildlife Center since 1978. “Celebrating Groundhog Day at the Wildlife Center has become a very popular event,” stated Wildlife Center Biologist Rob Silvester . “Each year several visitors gather with anticipation to witness Freddie's first glimpse of the New Year and his annual prediction.”


  Groundhog Day is rooted in early European legend. According to tradition, Groundhog Day stems from similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day. For centuries, early Christian clergy would bless candles and distribute them to the people. During the conquest of the northern country, Roman legions supposedly brought this tradition to the Teutons or Germans, who concluded that if the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day, the hedgehog, would cast a shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of bad weather. The Germans would recite: For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day, so far will the snow swirl until the May. When early German settlers came to the New World , they replaced the hedgehog with the woodchuck as the traditional “wise animal.”


  Woodchucks are true hibernators and spend all winter in burrowed out dens. They usually go in their dens about mid-November and stay until early to mid-February, when they awaken and begin searching for a mate. Breeding begins soon after the animals emerge from hibernation. Pregnancy lasts 31-33 days with a typical litter of 2 - 9 cubs born near the end of March. They measure about four inches long at birth, and their eyes remain closed until they are about 4 weeks old. By midsummer, the young are 20 inches long and weigh about 4 pounds.


  For more information about the annual Groundhog Day Celebration at the Wildlife Center, contact the West Virginia State Wildlife Center at P.O. Box 38, French Creek, WV 26218, phone: (304) 924-6211 or visit the DNR's Web page at .


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