Pocono predictors | Wildlife center groundhogs share prognostications

by | Feb 22, 2024

MONROE COUNTY, Pa. — A Groundhog Day celebration in the Poconos wasn’t just about learning this year’s prediction. It was also to teach people about the animal.

As the sun rose over the Wilderz at Pocono Wildlife near Stroudsburg, the fate of the season was in the paws of groundhogs named Sweet Potato and Baked Potato.

Legend has it that if they see their shadow, we’re in for another six weeks of winter. If not, we’re in for an early spring.

The two groundhogs stood tall Friday morning, not scared of their shadow, meaning an early spring.

Stephanie Knapp and her two boys from Milford were excited to hear spring is arriving early.

“We love Groundhog Day. We love groundhogs. We love a theme—any excuse to have some sort of celebration and celebrate Pennsylvania tradition. We’re proud Pennsylvanians. We thought it would be fun to learn a little, and it’s like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to get this close to a groundhog,” Knapp said.

The German Pennsylvania tradition dates back to when badgers were used in Germany as prognosticators.

“When they came here, the Pennsylvania Dutch people that were German back then were looking around, and they didn’t see any badgers, but they saw the groundhogs and said, ‘That’s going to be our prognosticator.’ So, every year on the second of February, groundhogs come out anyway to mate and do stuff,” said Pocono Wildlife’s Kathy Uhler.

This is the first time in the center’s history that it has been able to host a Groundhog Day event because this year, they actually have groundhogs.

“They were about the size of potatoes, hence their name when they came in. And it’s recommended that they’re released between five and six pounds, and they were not at that weight when it was time for release, so we decided to over-winter to hopefully release them in the spring,” said Pocono Wildlife’s Janine Tancredi.

For many, Groundhog Day is all about the prediction and the fun, but at the wildlife center, they hope to educate people about groundhogs and how they live.

“They’re really good if you want to keep other animals out. So, if they are underneath your shed, a fox isn’t going to come in, a skunk isn’t going to come in. People see them and think they’re cute. They think they’re cuddly. You should not touch them. They’re a rabies vector species,” Tancredi said.

Whether Sweet Potato and Baked Potato get this year’s prediction correct, the wildlife center hopes to continue this tradition for years.


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