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Punxsutawney Phil Facts

UPDATED February 1, 2012; Originally Published Feb. 1, 2005

By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Stephanie Blozy

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The day before Groundhog`s Day 2005, I had a chance to sit down with then-Punxsutawney Phil Inner Circle president, Bill Cooper. I asked Bill some of the questions I`ve wondered about for years.

Q. Phil has some awfully large teeth. Does he bite?

A. Bill assures me that Phil is a friendly hog despite his tendency to nibble the person holding him if he wants down. Bill explained to me that Groundhogs are vegetarians. They eat mainly fruits, vegetables like leafy greens - not humans. Phil`s favorite food is bananas, but the Zoo feeds him and his wife Phyllis vegetarian dog food.

One interesting tidbit is that the groundhog`s teeth never stop growing. Fortunately, as the groundhog eats its roughage, their incisors are worn down.

Q. How big is Phil`s burrow on Gobbler`s Knob?

A. Phil only spends the night in his burrow inside a tree stump on Gobbler`s Knob one night a year. His real home is at the Punxsutawney Zoo where he lives in a palatial burrow (12x14 feet) with his wife Phyllis. In this burrow, they have a stone pond with running water, a bathroom and two dens.

Q. Has Phil ever escaped?

A. No, but during the year of the first fireworks display (sometime in the 1980`s), Phil got scared when the big boomers went off and started frantically digging. When one of the Inner Circle members reached into the burrow to bring Phil out, he couldn`t find him because Phil had burrowed a good 18 inches down.

Phil has also traveled to Washington to visit President Reagan and Chicago to guest appear on Oprah, but mainly Phil loves his life of luxury in Punxy and has vowed to never leave.

Q. What is Punx`y Phil`s Record?

A. In the 120 years (through 2007) since Phil began his prognostications, he has seen his shadow 96 times, NOT seen his shadow 15 times and had 9 years (mainly in the late 1880`s and 1890`s) where he did not make a prediction due to various reasons.

During Prohibition, Phil threatened to make winter last for 60 more weeks if he wasn`t allowed a drink. In 1981, Phil wore a yellow ribbon in honor of the American hostages in Iran. And in 2001, Phil`s prognostication was shown live in NYC`s Times Square.

As for Phil`s accuracy? Bill says that it`s "100%...of course!"

Q. Why does Phil and his other groundhog friends come out of their burrows in February?

A. Bill says that groundhogs like Phil, come out of their burrows because they are hungry after their long winter hibernation and because they are looking for a little romance.

Research by Professor Stam Zervanos of the Pennsylvania State University confirms this. By keeping watch over groundhogs on his test farm, Zervanos proves that male groundhogs come out of their three-month hibernation in early February to visit the burrows of two or three female groundhogs. Surprisingly, these are not mating visits; just dates, to see who the male might like to mate with when they all wake up about a month later in March (sounds like the male groundhogs like to sleep on it before they make their final decision).

Groundhog babies, also called kits or cubs, make their appearance in April and May after a 30-day gestational period. Mommies have between 4 and 9 babies in each litter. By July, the cubs are ready to go off on their own.

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