General Outdoors Press Release

Groundhog Day with French Creek Freddie at the West Virginia State Wildlife Center Feb. 2

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French Creek, WV– West Virginia State Wildlife Center’s official weather prognosticator, French Creek Freddie, is poised to forecast the onset of spring on Thursday, February 2, 2012, 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,” said Wildlife Center Biologist Gene Thorn.  “Each year several visitors gather with anticipation to witness Freddie’s first glimpse of the New Year and his annual prediction,” added Thorn.

The tradition of 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.

Early German settlers in the New World found another burrowing animal, the woodchuck, or groundhog, to be more plentiful then the hedgehog. Thus, the groundhog replaced the hedgehog as the traditional “wise animal” in North America.

Woodchucks are true hibernators and spend all winter in burrowed-out dens.  They usually go in their den about mid-November and stay until early to mid-February, when they awaken and begin searching for a mate.

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 website at www.wvdnr.gov.

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