This story first published in 2017.
Punxsutawney Phil is legendary. After all, the 20-pound groundhog has made famous forecasts on February 2, Groundhog Day, for decades.
That morning, the Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, resident is lifted from a stump at Gobbler’s Knob, the ceremony site two miles from town. If he sees his shadow during the annual folkloric tradition, it is believed that six more winter weeks are coming. If not, expect early spring.
There’s a live broadcast. Thousands of spectators. Then it’s soon over.
What’s Phil doing the rest of the year? Probably munching a favorite vegetable.
“We tried corn on the cob, and he fell in love,” says John Griffiths, one of two volunteer handlers who cares for Phil year-round. In addition to carrots, celery, lettuce and kale, Phil eats granola bars. They’re treats with a purpose: Groundhogs have two teeth that never stop growing, so the bars help Phil wear them down.
As for his home, the furry fella doesn’t live in the ceremonial stump. (He is taken there the night before.) He and a female groundhog named Phyllis live in “Phil’s Burrow.” Attached to the Punxsutawney Memorial Library, the indoor structure is built to resemble a natural habitat. Visitors can peer in through a window from outside and through another in the library’s children’s section. Adding a fake tree may have been a mistake: In 2012, Phil climbed into the ceiling.
Because of their public roles, Phil and Phyllis stay semiactive and don’t hibernate fully in winter like most groundhogs, whose body temperatures drop and hearts slow to as few four beats a minute. They snooze more, however, sleeping 12 to 15 hours daily until March.
The shut-eye comes in handy, because Phil is a groundhog on the go, making appearances at such events as weddings and Pittsburgh Penguins games. In the fall, he attends the Groundhog Picnic & Phil Phest, where he sips the elixir that’s said to give Phil, who is supposedly 133 years old, the ability to live longer than other groundhogs, which live four to six years in the wild.
As for Phil’s most publicized outing, what his mood will be on February 2 is the biggest mystery of all. When the stump was opened in 2015, Phil was asleep. The following year, Griffiths says, “he was like a wolverine.”
This year, it’s Griffiths’s turn to take Phil out for his prediction. He chuckles. “We’ll see how that goes.”
Other groundhogs making forecasts February 2 include:
●Sir Walter Wally: Raleigh, North Carolina.
●Birmingham Bill: Birmingham, Alabama.
●Buckeye Chuck: Marion, Ohio.
●French Creek Freddie: French Creek, West Virginia.
●Woodstock Willie: Woodstock, Illinois.
●Chesapeake Chuck: Newport News, Virginia.
●Chuckles: Manchester, Connecticut.
●Chattanooga Chuck: Chattanooga, Tennessee.
●Jimmy: Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.