January 27th, 2003, VANCOUVER - Every year Groundhog Day receives considerable media attention providing these furry little animals with their fifteen minutes of fame. And on February 2nd, people eagerly wait to hear if designated groundhogs see their shadows, which many regard as a sign of whether spring will arrive early or late.


Unfortunately, for the rest of the year humans don’t hold groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, in as high regard.

"Regrettably, some are either indifferent or even hostile to these animals the other 364 days of the year," says Al Hickey, Humane Society of Canada (HSC) Western Regional Director. "People shoot, trap or poison groundhogs, allow their dogs to attack them, putting both dogs and groundhogs at risk, and even intentionally run them over with their vehicles".

According to HSC Executive Director, Michael O’Sullivan, "Our species is creative when it comes to killing groundhogs, but we’re not very imaginative when it comes to learning to live in harmony with these beautiful and beneficial animals".

O’Sullivan, who has a degree in Agriculture, acknowledges that groundhogs, and their burrows, can cause farmers, gardeners and others some inconvenience, but, like all species, they play important roles in nature.

"Groundhogs are an important source of food for various animals and their burrows provide homes for other animals including cottontail rabbits, raccoons, skunks and foxes," says O’Sullivan. "These remarkable animals also fertilize the earth and loosen and aerate the soil".

Part of the reason why groundhogs are given little respect is because people know very little about them. Since education can bring about respect, the Humane Society of Canada is asking the public to take a few minutes on Groundhog Day to learn more about woodchucks. Those that do will learn that these incredible animals both need and deserve our respect.

The following are a few interesting facts about groundhogs:

  • commonly called woodchucks and marmots
  • weigh between 5 and 14 pounds
  • live in pastures, meadows, fields and open woods throughout much of southern Canada
  • are active by day
  • eat a variety of vegetation including grasses and clover
  • burrows provide homes for other animals
  • fertilize the earth and loosen and aerate the soil
  • if attacked groundhogs try to reach their burrows but will fight if cornered or confronted
  • burrows are 5 to 30 feet in length, with branching tunnels, and 2 to 3 feet below the surface of the ground
  • 2 to 6 young are born in April or May

CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280

[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.

A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]

The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.

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