VANCOUVER, 30 JANUARY 2001 – With Groundhog Day just around the corner (2 February for those of you still in hibernation), The Humane Society of Canada offers you Groundhogs 101, a primer to make this day even more fun and popular. "People hold their breath, waiting in anticipation to see whether or not their favourite local groundhog sees his/her shadow," according to Al Hickey, Western Regional Director of The Humane Society of Canada (HSC). Legend has it that if the groundhog sees his shadow then we can expect six more weeks of winter, and it he does not then spring is just around the corner.

"However, once spring arrives, not everyone wants to cuddle up with groundhogs. We're asking farmers, gardeners, stable owners, groundskeepers and golf course owners to give these critters a break," explains HSC Executive Director, Michael O'Sullivan.


"Learning to live peacefully with groundhogs is not only the right thing to do, it also makes common sense. It makes more sense for farmers and horse owners to deter groundhogs from certain area, and allow them to live in nearby areas. If this doesn't work, knowing where the groundhog holes are and making these burrows off limits to machinery, horses and other animals -- instead of killing a groundhog, whose place will simply be taken by another one who may dig yet even more burrows, " he said.

"Life doesn't offer us 100% solutions that make everybody happy. People need to realize this is also true when dealing with wildlife. We need to all get along a bit bitter," said O'Sullivan. Gardeners and groundskeepers can plant extra vegetables, or fence off small gardens with appropriate material.

Noisemakers like an aluminium pie plate attached by a string to a stake in the ground, a barking dog, or other humane deterrents are other tips. In drastic situations where nothing else works, using a humane box trap to capture and relocate the animal may be considered.

O'Sullivan warns that using poisons, traps or guns may be illegal, cruel and not selective. "You can wind up harming birds, house-pets, farm animals, other wildlife and even children and adults. It's like using a cannon to swat a fly -- there's a lot of collateral damage and normally you miss the fly," he said.

"Knowing that when it comes to how animals are treated 'ignorance is not bliss' we decided to use this special day to educate people about groundhogs." said O'Sullivan, who offers up the following little known information about these wonderful animals:

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

"Groundhog Day is a fun day when we 'find out' how many more weeks of cold weather that we have to endure" says O'Sullivan. "My hope is that by learning more about this remarkable creature we can turn this 'fun' on February 2 to 'respect' or at least 'tolerance' for the rest of the year."

CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at via twitter at and on Facebook at:

[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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