We have a groundhog den in our sideyard. Two years ago there were four babies living in the den with their mother. So far, we have not had any problems with the groundhogs and our garden.
The legend of the Groundhog as a weather prophet came from Europe. The legend came along with the immigrants who worked in the coal mines in Punxsutawney, a town in the foothills of Western Pennsylvania. As the story goes, a local news editor tied the legend to the large number of groundhogs in the area.
Although considered a North American holiday by many, Groundhog Day has very deep roots. It evolved out of the medieval Christian festival of Candlemas, and the ancient pagan celebration St. Brigid's Day.
Candlemas Day and its predecessor St. Brigid's Day fall between the winter solstice and the spring equinox and mark the midpoint of winter.
It was customary for the Europeans to watch for the hedgehog to come out of hibernation every February 2nd. As the legend goes, if the the hedgehog saw its shadow, there would be six more weeks of winter weather. If not, spring was around the corner. When these immigrants arrived in Pennsylvania, the groundhog was simply substituted for the hedgehog.
The average groundhog can weigh anywhere from 7 to 14 pounds. Groundhogs are rodents and are members of the squirrel family. They are clean living herbivores. Clover and alfalfa are their favorite foods.
Groundhogs also love fruits and vegetables, which is why many garden owners refer to them as pests. One reason groundhogs are abundant is that they are immune to the plague and to many diseases. They love cleanliness and their burrows even include bathrooms.