Spring is on its way

| 15 Feb 2012 | 11:33

WANTAGE, N.J. — Hurray! Stonewall has already predicted that spring will arrive early this year. The 2-year-old groundhog at Space Farms Zoo and Museum did not see his shadow and ... everybody knows the rest. Stonewall comes from a long line of prognosticators. His groundhog family has been predicting the weather for many generations at Space Farms. Many different hibernating animals have been watched over the years, including bears, hedgehogs and groundhogs, also known as a woodchucks or whistle pigs. During the 1800s, the large population of groundhogs made it easy to watch for this natural sign of spring and became widely used, fueling the legend of Groundhog Day. Called a superstition, it may have some merit. On days when there are no clouds and groundhogs — as well as people — can see their shadows, it is very cold, thus more winter. With clouds to buffer the earth and keep the warmth in, no shadow appears and spring may be on its way. February is the breeding time for groundhogs and that may be why they emerge from their dens at this time. That being said, the notion is that if the groundhog sees his shadow, he will be frightened by it and retreat to his den — six more weeks of winter weather. If he comes up and the sky is cloudy, he won't be frightened by his shadow and spring is on its way. The midway point between winter solstice and spring equinox falls early in February. One holiday that falls during this time is Candlemas Day and it was believed that winter would last six more weeks if the sun came out on this Christian holiday.