Punxatawney Phil Is Lame; 3 NH ‘Animals’ That Are Better Choices
Will he or won’t he?
Punxatawney Phil, the Pennsylvania celebrity with more public gigs than the Philadelphia Eagles have Super Bowl appearances, continues to give us his best shot at predicting the end of winter each Feb. 2.
Phil, the world's most celebrated groundhog, is presented with great fanfare every year to help determine whether we will be faced with six more weeks of cold weather and Massachusetts skiers crowding the New Hampshire slopes or if we will be handed an early mud season, known elsewhere as spring.
Prediction with the famed groundhog began with German settlers in the 1880s. According to published sources, Phil speaks Groundhogese, a language that is only understood by the president of Phil’s Inner Circle, which is a small group of handlers that help care for Phil.
True believers say Phil has been the only groundhog since 1887 to do this special work. That is quite a feat, since the average lifespan of a groundhog is about six years. The mystery “elixir” that he drinks each summer gives him an additional seven years of life, according to Phil’s fans.
Perhaps the New Hampshire legislators can see if this could be brought into the state and legalized.
According to people who pay attention to such things, such as weather professionals, Phil has been correct about 39 percent of the time, which is not much better than the 42 percent chance that the Philadelphia Eagles will beat the New England Patriots in the Feb. 4 Super Bowl, according to one online source
So, perhaps it is time for us to bring out our own Granite State-centric prognosticator. Instead of top hats and bow ties, we can dress up our dignitaries with red plaid and suspenders. But which New Hampshire animal would get the honor of representing the state?
Bears would no doubt be a top choice. Slow movers in winter, bears here can come out to forage during the mid-winter thaw. According to bear.org, black bears in the east "are genetically programmed to delay hibernation until late-November or December and hibernate less than 5 months."
Their heart rate and metabolism slows. They do not eat, drink, urinate or defecate. They breathe only once in 45 seconds. But experts at the Forest Society of New Hampshire say this is actually winter torpor, not true hibernation.
Wildlife experts say groundhogs are true hibernators. A groundhog's heartbeat in winter drops to about 5 beats per minute.
Then there are the Fishers. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department describes Fishers as dark-furred animals with slender bodies like otters and weasels and, beyond common belief, are not related to cats. Experts say fishers do not fish, and though are opportunistic feeders, do not target domesticated cats as is also commonly thought in popular culture. They can, however, do a number on porcupines by making repeated attacks on the animal's face before finally flipping it over and eating its underside.
You would have to get up early, or be out at dusk, to see one so the low sun would likely make long, and therefore perhaps easier to see, shadows.
Fishers are active in the winter but are generally elusive. Unregulated trapping thinned the population of Fishers over the years.
Speaking of weasels, there is one more species that could be used to mark the coming seasonal change. The New Hampshire First in the Nation Primary presidential candidate.
A common visitor every three or four years, with some of the species never leaving the area, the presidential candidate can be seen throughout New Hampshire. They can often be found at VFW halls, senior centers, backyard barbecues in Rye and in mid-summer, at the Amherst Fourth of July Parade.
It can be hard to differentiate between the two main subspecies of presidential candidates, as there are many similarities.
It is commonly believed that if a presidential candidate sees his or her shadow on February 2, there will be another 4-year cycle of campaigning.
There is no definitive word on the effect of unregulated trapping would have on presidential candidates in New Hampshire.
The question arises, too, of where we should hold our grand event? It is tough to compete with a place called Gobbler’s Knob, but we’re yankees. We’ll give it our best shot. We could go with Meserve’s Purchase, or maybe Happy Corner up in Pittsburg.
Plus, there is always Dummer.
We’ll be watching you, Phil. Best of luck with your annual winter prediction. And if you don’t get it right we’ll show you how it is done in New England, just like how we will do it with football.