Woodchuck or groundhog, it's winter

February 03, 1994|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Sun Staff Writer

On St. Patrick's Day, the saying goes, everyone's Irish.

At the Baltimore Zoo, the woodchucks made a similar transformation yesterday -- they were called groundhogs.

"They're really the same," zoo director Brian A. Rutledge said of the furry forecasters of spring known even less by their scientific name, Marmota monax.

But call them what you want -- it was just too cold yesterday afternoon for the varmints to stir from hibernation in their Children's Zoo burrows, much less see their shadows in the bright sunshine.

The nation's most celebrated groundhog made his annual Groundhog Day appearance in the western Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney -- but not willingly.

More than 2,000 people showed up at Gobblers Knob to see Punxsutawney Phil pulled from his cozy, hay-filled burrow into the early morning chill of 2 degrees below zero.

Despite overcast skies and light snow, the famous rodent saw his shadow -- which by legend is supposed to scare it back into its burrow for six more weeks of winter. The crowd jeered.

But set the alarm for 3:28 p.m. on March 20. Spring will arrive

then -- guaranteed.

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