District questions Groundhog Day tradition

Feb. 1, 2010 at 11:41 AM
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WHEATON, Ill., Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Officials in a forest preserve district in DuPage County, Ill., say the tradition of waking groundhogs for Groundhog Day interrupts the animal's hibernation.

DuPage County Forest Preserve District animal ecologist Dan Thompson said while waking groundhogs from their hibernation has become a major tradition on Feb. 2, such efforts can actually put the animals' lives at risk, the Chicago Tribune said Sunday.

"During hibernation, a groundhog's heartbeat, metabolism and respiration slow," Thompson said, "allowing it to live on its body fat. If a groundhog is awakened from hibernation too early, it might not have the energy to find food and survive in cold winter temperatures."

Some Midwest tourist attractions like the St. Louis Zoo also do not indulge in the Groundhog Day tradition, which legend suggests can offer a prediction about the length of winter.

"The fact that we're not having a Groundhog Day celebration is not really a stand we're taking so much as it is that we have a really cranky groundhog who doesn't like to be woken up," St. Louis Zoo public relations director Janet Powell told the Tribune.

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