Well, it’s Groundhog Day and the almighty Punxsutawney Phil has come out from his burrow to announce six more weeks of winter. (yay?…)
As a child Phil fascinated me, but now I’ve wondered about dear Phil for different reasons. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the groundhog pulled from his burrow in the open to an eager crowd with cameras, and wonder if this is healthy for him.
And, surprisingly, it took some time to find any information about this.
Legend has it that Phil is immortal. While most groundhogs live for roughly six to eight years, Phil is over a hundred. He is able to achieve this by drinking a special elixir. He cared for by the Groundhog Club Inner Circle, a group of top-hat wearing handlers.
Now, taking that in, let’s look at how the average groundhog would typically cope with Phil’s fame.
As a kid I remember thinking of the groundhog rising out of hibernation to predict the weather like this.
It wouldn’t be so nice for the actual groundhog, though.
When a groundhog hibernates, their body temperature decreases dramatically from 100 degrees Fahrenheit to around 40. They enter a coma-like state and will not wake until spring even if touched. It would be a traumatic experience to be awakened in early February. Except, Phil doesn’t hibernate.
No, this is not a magic power but a side effect of being raised in captivity. According to handlers, his appetite will slow but awake and eating all year long. Phil lives with his wife Phyllis and others in an environmentally controlled exhibit of the Punxsutawney Memorial Library. The exhibit has wood and other natural resources that a groundhog may find. He is fed produce and the occasional granola bar.
Though it may seem like this would be harmful, groundhogs raised in captivity can live up to 14 years.
Overall, is it the most ethical to have Phil put in front of cameras year after year? Probably not. Though like I said, there’s little information easily available, and I challenge those involved to give us more about this living legend.